Tag: Austria

World Cup Tales: Did Il Duce Fix It? Italy, 1934

When Joao Havelange claimed, in 2008, that the 1966 and 1974 World Cups were fixed, his claims were largely laughed out of court. Depending on who you listened to, he was either deliberately misconstruing events or demonstrating little more than the first signs of senility. What was, however, curious about his comments was what he missed out. No mention was made of the 1978 tournament, which many have pointed to as being a tournament of less than sturdy moral fibre (and was, coincidentally, the first held under Havelange’s tutelage) and, even more curiously, none was made of the second World Cup of all, which was held in the Italy of Benito Mussolini in 1934. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that FIFA decided to hold the second World Cup (and the first to be held in Europe) in a fascist, totalitarian state. After all, they held the 1978 World Cup in one and the decision to hold the 1982 tournament in Spain was made while General Franco was still very much alive. Questionable decisions over the hosting of World Cup tournaments are part and parcel of the history of the game. However, when reading back over the history of the 1934 competition, it occasionally starts to feel as if FIFA at the time were in thrall to Mussolini, allowing him to take near personal control of the competition, which is...

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World Cup Tales: The Shame Of Gijon, 1982

Algeria make their first appearance in the World Cup finals since 1986 this year, and if they are looking for any more encouragement to perform than the prospect of playing on the world’s biggest stage, then the sense of injustice at their previous treatment by the competition could be enough to spur them on that little bit more. Algeria have previously qualified for two World Cup tournaments, but in one of those circumstances conspired against them to the extent that they may have been excused wondering whether they weren’t even wanted in the tournament in the first place. Was Algeria’s elimination from the 1982 World Cup down to “cheating” by their group rivals West Germany and Austria, though, or was the fundamental flaw in the timing of the final group matches? Group 2, the group that contained Algeria, West Germany, Austria and Chile, was held in the Spanish cities of Gijon and Oviedo and, as was the convention at the time, the Germans, as the seeded team, played all three of their matches at the same venue, Estadio El Molinón in Gijon, while the other three nations played their matches against each other at the smaller Estadio Carlos Tartiere in Oviedo. West Germany were the second favourites to win the tournament behind Brazil and it was the first time that Algeria had qualified for the finals. There had been...

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In praise of: Pepi Bican

When people grapple with the ultimately unneccesary but nevertheless fascinating topic of the greatest football players ever, hardly anyone would even mention Josef “Pepi” Bican.  This very fact alone has always made him a figure of particular interest to me.  According to RSSSF, he’s the all-time most prolific goalscorer in world football, with 804+ goals in around just 529 games.  Compare this to Pelé: 765 in 827 competitive games.  Even the great Brazilian’s overall total for all the games in his professional career – 1284 – is overshadowed by Bican’s 1467+.  Why, then, has Bican fallen from many people’s radar, whilst Pelé is still held up as the shining example of his craft? I think that it is partially due to the World Cup.  Pelé’s career in the finals of the world’s premier tournament is well-known.  Bican, born in Austria-Hungary in 1913, played in just one – the 1934 World Cup where his Austria team were beaten in the semi-finals by the host nation, Italy, after certain “discussions” had allegedly taken place between the officials and Benito Mussolini.  Having refused to join the Nazi party in the years between 1937,  Bican took Czech citizenship – he had been playing for Slavia Prague – but the paperwork did not go through quickly enough to allow him to play in France in 1938. But the World Cup argument isn’t the be-all and...

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It’s All In The Head

As last season kicked off, Scott Carson must have thought that the world was at his feet. He had come a long way very quickly. He had been spotted in 2002 playing for non-league Workington’s youth team by scouts from Leeds United, and was just nineteen years old when Rafael Benitez was persuaded to pay £750,000 for his signature in January 2005. Before the season was out, he had played for them in the Premier League and in the Champions League against Juventus. He was even on the bench in Istanbul, as Liverpool came from three goals down to salvage that extraordinary win against Milan to lift the European Cup. Of course, it was always going to be difficult for a goalkeeper of his age to get regular first team football at Anfield. He spent time on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic before agreeing a year-long long deal with Aston Villa last summer. It might not have been stepping into the shoes of Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar at Anfield, but he was a 22 year old English goalkeeper looking forward to a full season as a Premier League goalkeeper under the careful tutelage of Martin O’Neill, who was making steady progress at Villa Park. Then, along came Steve McClaren. Carson might have been forgiven for thinking that it was his own, solid performances for Aston Villa...

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Auf Wiedershen, Mein Host

Last night, Austria followed Switzerland out of Euro 2008 with a performance which, whilst not lacking in heart and courage, ultimately showed up the gap in quality between themselves and the tournament favourites. Germany eventually eased their way into the quarter-finals with a win from a match in which they didn’t play particularly well and will now play Portugal in the quarter-finals, whilst Croatia finished as the group winners with three wins out of three, and will take on Turkey. It was asking too much to expect another pair of classic matches, but Austria’s naivete going forward was almost breathtaking. They continually managed, without too much opposition, to get the ball into the final third of the pitch but failed completely to get the ball into dangerous areas or work themselves into positions that they could worry the Germans from. On several occasions, the surprisingly benevolent German defence allowed them plenty of space on the edge of the penalty area but their shots were always charged down. Austria, ultimately weren’t good enough. The match was decided as a contest early in the second half, with one of the rare moments of quality in an otherwise tepid match, when Michael Ballack drove an absolutely unstoppable free kick into the top corner of the Austrian goal. It was the first goal of the tournament to come directly from a free kick....

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