Thursday, 30 June 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 14

France 4-1 Mexico (13 July 1930) Estadio Pocitos, Montevideo

As early as 1902 there were thoughts of creating a global football tournament. Dutch administrator C.A.W. Hirschmann approached the FA in that year with plans for a new competition and with it a new governing body, but was met with a lack of interest in his proposals. Frenchman Robert Guerin had similar thoughts, but such was the seeming futility of his attempts to convince the FA that he described the process as like “trying to slice water with a knife.”

Following discussions with the leading administrator in Belgium, Guerin invited representatives from the continent’s leading nations to meet in Paris on 21 May1904 with a view to the formation of the grouping he so craved. At the headquarters of the Union Française de Sports Athlétiques at 229 Rue Saint Honoré a historic gathering took place which saw the birth of what would become the most powerful sporting body in the world. The men that attended that first meeting were to participate in the creation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Robert Guerin

While FIFA demonstrated immense ambition in its early years, it managed to achieve very little. A proposed European championship, to be held in Berne in 1906, came to nought, and it seemed for a time that FIFA would lack any obvious purpose. It was only with the success of football at the Olympics in the 1920s that a large scale football completion became viable. Football accounted for a third of all revenues generated by the 1924 Olympics in Paris showing that the tournament could be self-supporting.

At a meeting with Enrique Buero of Uruguay in Geneva in 1926, FIFA President, Jules Rimet, had conceded his interest in the foundation of a World Cup, but no firm commitment was made. In 1927 FIFA set up a special commission to discuss the potential for such a tournament, and at the FIFA Congress of 1928 in Amsterdam the decision was made to hold a World Cup in 1930. While a host of European candidates were ready to host the tournament, the decision was taken to award it to Uruguay on account of their recent Olympic success, the centenary of their constitution and their willingness to build a stadium fit to host the inaugural World Cup.

The Jules Rimet Trophy
 Following frantic preparations the tournament began in July 1930, though the promised stadium was not ready for the early games and the opening ceremony took place after Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay had all been eliminated. While the European teams had been willing to host the tournament, rather less had been willing to travel to Uruguay and as such it was a tournament with only 13 teams.

The opening game (along with Belgium against the USA) saw France take on Mexico. The game was played in conditions which certainly suited the French over their Aztec adversaries. It had snowed in the night before the game and as a consequence the playing surface was something of a quagmire which stifled flowing football.

France made much the brighter start of the two teams, full of vigour and invention, and the Mexicans were forced to defend in the early stages of the game. After nineteen minutes the French made their pressure count, breaking the deadlock and with it scoring the first ever World Cup goal. The man with that great honour was inside-left, Lucien Laurent. Andre Maschinot played the ball out to Ernest Liberati on the right flank and his cross was met by Laurent to volley home and put the French in front.

Lucien Laurent

Yet just as the French appeared to have settled their nerves they suffered a significant set back. Goalkeeper Alexis Thepot suffered a boot to the head, sustained in a clash with Mejia and had to leave the field. At the time no substitutions were permitted and so left-half Augustin Chantrel was forced to take over in goal and the French were forced to play with just ten men with over an hour remaining.

Les Bleus’ ability to weather the storm of losing their keeper owed as much to Mexico’s inability to impose themselves on the game, as France’s own mental strength. Just ten minutes after going a man down the French extended their well deserved lead. Etienne Mattler, the French right-back, centred for Marcel Langiller to put them two goals ahead. Within two minutes Oscar Bonfiglio, the Mexican keeper, found himself picking the ball out of the net for a third time when Maschinot finished off after some excellent work from Delfour created a shooting chance.
At half-time the Mexicans must have feared for a repeat of their last appearance in a major tournament, when they suffered a 7:1 annihilation at the hands of Spain in the 1928 Olympics. Yet their performance in the second half showed that the side did at least possess spirit.

The words of coach Juan Luque de Serralongo had the stirring effect desired and the Mexicans began to master the trying conditions. With twenty minutes remaining they got their reward, when Dionsio Mejia fed Juan Carreno and he crashed the ball past stand-in keeper Chantrel. The Mexicans poured forward in the last twenty minutes in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, but they were unable to unlock a well drilled French defence.

Almost inevitably, the Mexicans’ desire to level the scores gave the French the chance to put the result beyond doubt. With just three minutes remaining the French broke swiftly through Marcel Langiller and his pass allowed Maschinot to wrap up proceedings with a calm finish. France, on the eve of Bastille Day, had looked impressive, but it was clear that they would have to improve again with far stiffer opposition to be faced in their remaining games.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 13

Arsenal 2-0 Huddersfield Town (26 April 1930) Wembley, London

After the goal rush that had followed the 1925 amendment to the offside law, it was inevitable that somebody would plot a way to counteract the sudden increase in scoring. The offside trap which had been so expertly laid by McCracken and Hudspeth of Newcastle, was no longer the effective tool it had been. With just two full-backs facing five forwards, the balance of power had shifted firmly in favour of the attack, now someone needed to swing it back.

Herbert Chapman was the greatest manager of his day. At Huddersfield he had created a team which would win 3 league titles in a row, with a system which seemed to run counter to all footballing orthodoxies. In the past the league’s best teams had been those who enjoyed the majority of possession and made this pressure count by converting it into goals. Chapman turned this thinking on its head and became the first manager to use counter-attacking as a genuine strategy rather than a mere response. Chapman’s Huddersfield would defend deep and then launch quick counter attacks, before their opponents could reorganise their own defence.

In 1925 Chapman accepted the chance to move south and manage an Arsenal team who were less than successful at the time. In exchange for leaving the best team in the country Chapman requested full control of the team and warned chairman Henry Norris that he would not win anything for 5 years. Chapman’s pedigree forced the normally overbearing Norris to agree, and there began the beginnings of Arsenal’s success.

Herbert Chapman

Chapman’s first signing at Arsenal was the great Sunderland inside-forward Charlie Buchan, a man who himself had a definite opinion on the impact of the new offside Law. What Buchan realised was that to combat the new Law it would be necessary to move the centre-half into defence and slot him between the two fullbacks. This new centre-back would provide much greater cover for the full-backs and give the team a stronger base from which to build. If Chapman was to continue his counter attacking policy it would be necessary to have a strong defence on which to base it.

The WM system (named after the pattern that the players took on the pitch) though did not see just one radical change, but two. In order to make up for the loss of creativity suffered by the withdrawal of the centre-half, it was necessary to force one of the inside-forwards deeper to link the play between defence and attack. Buchan himself was too valuable a goalscorer to allow to play in such a deep position, so at first Chapman tried Andy Neil in the role with significant success. It was in 1928 though and with the arrival of Alex James from Preston that the withdrawn inside-forward really came alive.

By 1930 the system was fully evolved, and it marked some radical changes for each position. With the arrival of the centre-back he was now charged with marking the opposing centre-forward, the full-backs now marked the opposing wingers, while the wing-halves would mark the inside forwards. For Arsenal, both inside-forwards were now playing in deep positions as David Jack arrived to play alongside Alex James.

Arsenal (below) v. Huddersfield

In the 1930 FA Cup final Chapman’s Arsenal faced his old club Huddersfield, looking to lift the FA Cup for the first time. Having travelled to Wembley for the 1927 final, only to lose 1-0 to Cardiff City, the Arsenal players were determined to make amends for past failures. Their route to the final had been a gruelling one, with replays required to overcome both Birmingham and Hull, but they arrived at Wembley fresh and ready for battle. Neither team had enjoyed a vintage league season, with Huddersfield finishing tenth and Arsenal fourteenth. As such Huddersfield were a far cry from the dominant force of the early 20s, who had won three titles in such style.

For the first time in a Cup final the two sides entered the pitch side by side, with Tom Parker and Tom Wilson leading out their respective teams. Parity between the two teams did not last long in the match though as Arsenal took an early lead. In the sixteenth minute Arsenal won a free-kick which Alex James took quickly by passing the ball to winger Cliff Bastin, the ball was played back to James who hit a fierce drive into the corner of the net from the edge of the area. It was a pre-planned move that James had thought out with Bastin prior to the match, and the quick thinking left Huddersfield standing still.

It was shortly after this in the first-half that the final had a surprise visitor. The German Graf Zeppelin, the world’s largest airship, emerged over Wembley and drew the crowd’s attention from the match. Huddersfield’s manager, Clem Stephenson, had been aware of the planned appearance prior to the match and had protested but been ignored. It could at least be said that the distraction applied equally to both teams.

The Graf Zeppelin looms over Wembley

Having taken the lead Arsenal found themselves primarily focused on defence in the remainder of the first half. Attacking mainly down the flanks Huddersfield enjoyed plenty of the ball and used the pace of their wide players to frighten the Arsenal full-backs. However, this good work from Alex Jackson and Billy Smith was not matched by the inside-forwards and so attacks broke down with little threat to the Arsenal goal.

In the second-half Huddersfield again pressed and looked by far the likelier side to score. They lacked though some of the control they had enjoyed in the first-half and the game was far more frantic with an ebb and flow which stopped either side enjoying long spells with the ball. Charlie Preedy, for Arsenal, was by far the busier of the two keepers and he rode his luck at times as he split the ball, only for a team mate to hack it away.

In the dying minutes of the game James sprayed a long pass out of his own half to find Jack Lambert, Arsenal’s centre-forward. Lambert eluded Goodall and Spence before firing a powerful shot past a static Turner in the Huddersfield goal. At 2-0 Huddersfield lost their momentum and lacked the urgency they had shown throughout the second-half. Arsenal had finally brought home some silverware and Chapman’s prediction of winning a trophy after 5 years had come true.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 12

Spain 4-3 England (15 May 1929) Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid

The performance of the Wembley Wizards in 1928 may have demonstrated a vulnerability within the England team, but against Continental opposition they remained preeminent. In over twenty games against teams from outside the British Isles England had never failed to win, and usually did so by a large margin. As such their tour of the Continent in 1929 could be regarded as something of a holiday.

In fairness the tour pitted them against some of the finest sides in Western Europe of the time. They started against France who they beat 4-1, with Edgar Kail and George Camsell both scoring doubles in an easy victory. Next were Belgium, the 1920 Olympic champions, and they too were brushed aside with a resounding 5-1 scoreline. Camsell scored 4 in the game, but suffered an injury that ruled him out of the final game of the tour.

George Camsell
 That match was against Spain, who had shown themselves to be a coming power of European football. After finishing second to the Belgians at the 1920 Olympics, they had demonstrated significant promise with multiple victories over France and Portugal. The arrival of professionalism in 1926 had given the Spaniards greater motivation to hone their skills and they proceeded to improve still further. In the months before facing England the Spanish had beaten Portugal 5-0 and France 8-1 to show the extent of their rise.

It was little wonder then that the home crowd was expectant, but the mile long queue which formed over four hours before the game for a chance to witness the game marked out the Spanish as fanatical supporters of football. The sweltering heat of a sunny May afternoon in Madrid coupled with the volume of fans provided an intimidating welcome for the visitors

England kicked off but soon found themselves on the back foot. Severino Goiburu, the only Spanish player who was not professional, received the ball from Gaspar Rubio and set off on a mazy dribble which ended with a shot flying narrowly over the bar. Mariano Yurrita, the Spanish left-winger, was the next to go close with a drive which went narrowly wide. It was not long though before England imposed themselves on the game.

With 19 minutes gone Hugh Adcock of Leicester City dribbled past a series of Spanish opponents before cutting back a cross for Joe Carter to start the scoring. Minutes later the two players combined again, with Carter beating Zamora to double the English advantage. At half-time and 2-0 up, England appeared to be in full control.

It did not take the Spaniards long to get back into the match. Just minutes after the interval Jose Maria Pena crossed for Rubio to head past Hufton and start the comeback. Now England were on the back foot and the Spanish capitalised on it when their outside-right, Jaime Lazcano, cut in from his wing and struck a rocket of a shot which flew past Hufton. The two  sides then took it in turns to attack with Hufton foiling Goiburu before Zamora turned away venomous efforts from Hill and Barry.

Ricardo Zamora
 England began to reassert themselves in the middle of the second-half and forced a series of corners but were unable to take advantage. Finally England’s dominance paid off as Jack Hill was put though and he beat Ricardo Zamora to restore England’s slender advantage. The searing heat took its toll on England in the latter stages of the game as they were just desperate to hold on. The Spanish appeared by far the fresher team and Lazcano drew them level with only minutes remaining. Almost immediately from the restart Goiburu charged forward and beat Hufton with a powerful shot that flew in at the near post.

As against Scotland at Wembley, England’s half-backs struggled to cope in Madrid. Martin Marculeta dominated the middle of the field and was a constant hindrance to England’s passing game. Up front Adcock and Carter impressed, but the team missed Camsell whose ability to lead the line and unsettle opposing defences counted for so much. Edgar Kail, who had so impressed against France, was largely a passenger though his presence should be noted as the last time a non-league amateur ever played for England.

The crowd had burst onto the pitch following Laczano’s equaliser, but following the final whistle the stadium descended into chaos. Such was the excitement of the crowd and their desire to celebrate with their heroes that the Civil Guard were required to escort the players from the pitch. England’s invincible record in Europe was over.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A History of World Football in 100 Games - Part 11

 Everton 3-3 Arsenal (5 May 1928) Goodison Park, Liverpool

Of all the many footballing records that might never be broken, few look more untouchable than that of Dixie Dean. His goalscoring exploits of 1927-8, when he scored an astonishing 60 goals in the league alone, look set to remain in the history books for many years to come. They were indeed so great that Bill Shankly, not noted for his enthusiastic support for the blue half of Merseyside, once said “Dixie was the greatest centre forward there will ever be. His record of goalscoring is the most amazing thing under the sun.”

At the start of the season Everton fans had limited cause for optimism. The previous year they had finished third from bottom (the bottom two being relegated), with only four points sparing them from the drop. They did though have, in Dean, a frontman who had already proven his potency at the highest level. Since his move from Tranmere in 1925 for a fee of £3,000 he had never stopped scoring. 32 goals in 38 games in his first full season at Goodison had been followed by 21 in 27 in his second, but few could predict quite how prolific Dean would be in 1927-8.

In 1925 the landscape of the game was radically altered as a result of the change in the offside law. The early years of the twentieth century had seen the beginnings of more cunning defensive practices. While the game’s nascent years had seen frequent offside calls that had been an unintended consequence of the first laws of the game these faults had been quickly modified to prevent the excessive break down of attacks. However, as time went on, some defenders realised that by clever use of the offside rule they could cut out significant numbers of attacks before they even started. The first team to use effectively the offside trap were Notts County (the oldest surviving league club) whose fullbacks Jock Montgomery and Herbert Morley would cleverly step up at the crucial moment to leave the opposing forwards offside.

The technique was perfected by Newcastle though and particularly defenders Bill McCracken and Frank Hudspeth. Such was the renown of the Newcastle offside trap that “legend has it, that when one team arrived at Newcastle central station and the guard blew his whistle the team’s centre-forward quipped: ‘Blimey, offside already!’” However, so effective was this tactic that it began to ruin the game as with only two defenders it was too easy for attacks to be stopped with an offside call. As such the decision was taken in 1925 to amend the offside law, so that only two defenders (including the goalkeeper) needed to be between an attacker and the opposing goal.

The result of this change in the years that followed was a boom in goalscoring numbers as defences struggled to adapt to the new system. The first man to take real advantage of the change in the laws and the resulting confusion was George Camsell. Playing for second division Middlesbrough, Camsell struck an amazing 59 league goals in the 1926-7 to secure promotion for the Teeside club.

Dean started the 1927-8 by scoring Everton’s fourth in a rout of Sheffield Wednesday and never stopped from that point on. After his first 9 games he had already notched 17 goals, netting in every one of those games and scoring all Everton’s goals in a 5-2 demolition of Manchester United. In April Dean equalled the top flight goalscoring record, set by Ted Harper of Blackburn in 1925-6, when he scored his 43rd goal of the campaign in a 3-3 draw at Anfield.

Going into final games of the season the record appeared to be beyond Dean. With 4 games remaining in the season he was on 50 goals in 35 games. Even at his incredible strike rate this appeared to be asking too much. A single goal in a win over Newcastle helped Everton’s title chances but appeared to hurt his hopes of the record. Dean followed that with a brace in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa to leave him needing 7 in his last 2 games. The first of those came against Burnley where he was marked by England captain Jack Hill. Despite the attentions of his national team colleague Dean was unaffected and scored 4 before half time, before having to be withdrawn with a leg injury.

That victory clinched the title for Everton with Huddersfield, their nearest rivals, imploding in the final weeks of the season. The injury to Dean though threatened his hopes of surpassing Camsell in the final game of an amazing season. Their opponents Arsenal were already assured of their top flight status and a midtable finish (an incredible closing table saw Spurs relegated on 38 points while Arsenal finished tenth out of 22 teams with just 41 points), so everyone arrived at Goodison in anticipation of Dixie Dean’s heroics. The fact that it was the final match for Charlie Buchan, one of the greatest forwards of the era, in a career spanning back to 1910 was forgotten in the excitement. All thoughts were purely on Dean and the record.      

The match did not start as the spectators had hoped though as within two minutes of the game starting Shaw scored for Arsenal with a powerful shot which Davies fumbled between his legs. This did not put Dean off his stride. His first was a powerful from the edge of the area after a corner from Critchley. Minutes later Dean was sent clean through on goal, only for Butler to bring him down from behind in the box. Dean naturally took the penalty himself and fired it between the keeper’s legs to put Everton ahead. With ten minutes remaining until half-time O’Donnell, the Everton full-back, put through his own net to level the scores at 2-2.

The atmosphere as the players emerged for the second-half was filled with anticipation. The Everton team were desperate to see Dean pass the record, while Arsenal defended doggedly to prevent them. At times Dean was surrounded by markers, intent on doing everything in their power to stop him scoring the vital goal. Despite their best efforts Everton simply couldn’t fashion a clear chance for Dean and were running out of time in which to do so. Patterson in the Arsenal goal was also keen to deny Dean tipping a number of speculative efforts around the post.

With five minutes remaining Patterson tipped a shot from George Martin over the bar, and Alec Troup raced over to take the corner. Dean positioned himself just outside the area as the corner was drifted in to the box before charging in with a ferocious header which left Patterson flatfooted. The crowd erupted with spectators bursting forward to congratulate Dean on his achievements. A late Arsenal equaliser from Shaw could not spoil the crowd’s mood and none could fail to marvel at the incredible achievement of the Everton striker. Since that day no player has ever come close to surpassing Dean’s record in the top flight and it is doubtful they ever will.