rss

Author Archive for Craig McCracken

0

PSG’s long and sometimes successful relationship with Brazilian footballers

Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Dani Alves and Neymar are just the latest Brazilian players to have found a home in ParisBy Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last ManThe build-up to PSG’s tie against Manchester United in the Champions League has centred around …

0

PSG’s long and sometimes successful relationship with Brazilian footballers

Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Dani Alves and Neymar are just the latest Brazilian players to have found a home in ParisBy Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last ManThe build-up to PSG’s tie against Manchester United in the Champions League has centred around …

0

Real Madrid’s strategy of signing World Cup stars goes back 60 years

Thibaut Courtois, Toni Kroos and Ronaldo are all part of a transfer policy first used by Santiago Bernabéu in 1958By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last ManIt is a quadrennial tradition that Real Madrid swoop for standout performers from the recent Wor…

0

The best ever World Cup match? Romania 3-2 Argentina at USA 94

Every football fan will have their own favourite World Cup game but this five-goal thriller takes some beatingBy Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last ManAsk a thousand football fans about the greatest match of their lifetimes and be ready for a thousand…

0

The Italian goalkeepers who played for months without conceding a goal

Dino Zoff played for Italy for 1,142 minutes without conceding but to find truly impressive clean sheet records you have to delve into the Serie C history books

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

For much of the footballing world the infamous Italian defensive system of catenaccio was a decade-long phenomena whose tyrannical grip on the game was loosened firstly by Celtic in 1967, then broken for good by Ajax and Total Football in the early 1970s. The system that had brought so much success for Milan and Inter had run its natural course and lacked the flexibility to meet the demands of a constantly changing game.

The problem was that catenaccio’s descent into obsolescence was recognised everywhere in the world apart from in its own Italian spiritual home. Always more than a mere tactic, catenaccio was a placebo that marketed itself as a cure-all remedy for the nation’s football insecurities. Italians had long suffered a lack of confidence in their footballers’ ability to compete physically with foreigners and this inspired a counter-philosophy in which a minimum requirement of not losing was an acceptable compromise. Catenaccio had brought success and it proved to be a hard drug for Italian coaches to wean themselves off.

Continue reading…

0

What would a communist football competition look like? The Progress Cup | Craig McCracken

From 1971 until 1991 the most improved team in the Soviet Union was given the Progress Cup, a trophy that rewarded perseverance rather than excellence

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

I blame the Watney Cup. Ever since that particular 1970s English oddity set a high benchmark for outlandishly ill-conceived competition formats, I’ve long harboured a fascination for discovering obscure tournaments from around the world that might just match its plain out-and-out silliness.

So while recently browsing the history of Shakhtar Donetsk (as you do), my curiosity was piqued by the inclusion on the club’s honours list of a Soviet-era tournament called the Progress Cup. Were Shakhtar’s 1975 and 1977 successes in this competition something for the Ukrainian miners club to celebrate? Was there a physical, hoistable piece of metal with handles involved or was it merely a symbolic award? I endeavoured to find out.

Continue reading…

0

How a team from Luxembourg with a one-armed striker lost 21-0 to Chelsea

Inspired by four brothers and a man in glasses, village team Jeunesse Hautcharage made it to the Cup Winners’ Cup – where they faced mighty Chelsea

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

A village football team featuring four brothers, a one-armed striker, a bespectacled midfielder, two players over the age of 40 and a 15-year-old on the bench enjoy a fantastic run to a cup final, win it against the odds and earn a dream European tie against the competition holders. It reads like the premise for a particularly fanciful Roy of the Rovers cartoon-strip, but this outlandish story needs neither animators nor writers as it’s one that has been played out already, for real, by the tiny Luxembourg club of Jeunesse Hautcharage. Sometimes real life can truly be stranger than fiction.

The village of Hautcharage lies in the south west of the country and its population in the early 1970s numbered between 300 and 800 (depending on whether you go with the figures of German magazine Kicker or the Swiss magazine Sport of Zurich). Its local team, Jeunesse, played in the regional third division of the Luxembourg League and followed a strictly amateur policy in an era when the definition was fairly elastic. The players received neither payment nor bonuses; they washed and mended their own kits; and they usually arranged their own transport to away matches.

Continue reading…

0

How a team from Luxembourg with a one-armed striker lost 21-0 to Chelsea

Inspired by four brothers and a man in glasses, village team Jeunesse Hautcharage made it to the Cup Winners’ Cup – where they faced mighty Chelsea

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

A village football team featuring four brothers, a one-armed striker, a bespectacled midfielder, two players over the age of 40 and a 15-year-old on the bench enjoy a fantastic run to a cup final, win it against the odds and earn a dream European tie against the competition holders. It reads like the premise for a particularly fanciful Roy of the Rovers cartoon-strip, but this outlandish story needs neither animators nor writers as it’s one that has been played out already, for real, by the tiny Luxembourg club of Jeunesse Hautcharage. Sometimes real life can truly be stranger than fiction.

The village of Hautcharage lies in the south west of the country and its population in the early 1970s numbered between 300 and 800 (depending on whether you go with the figures of German magazine Kicker or the Swiss magazine Sport of Zurich). Its local team, Jeunesse, played in the regional third division of the Luxembourg League and followed a strictly amateur policy in an era when the definition was fairly elastic. The players received neither payment nor bonuses; they washed and mended their own kits; and they usually arranged their own transport to away matches.

Continue reading…

0

The day Serie A produced nine goals in eight fixtures … and outscored La Liga

On Sunday 2 February 1969, 32 teams from two of Europe’s proudest leagues played 1,440 minutes of football and produced just 17 goals between them

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

Our first priority is a clean sheet – prima, non prenderlo – is the First Commandment of catenaccio. While the tactical system made famous by Italian clubs in the 1960s was a lot more complex than simply massed defence with a libero parked behind, not conceding goals was very much the key aim at the core of its dark and cynical heart.

The famous Italian journalist Gianni Brera mused that the perfect game of football would finish 0-0 and his reasoning was thus: goals were predominantly a result of errors during a passage of play, thus a game devoid of goals was by association a game devoid of telling mistakes. Errors would still occur in scoreless games of course, but a 0-0 result suggests that none of those mistakes was ultimately significant enough to lead to a goal and a shift in the match outcome.

Continue reading…

0

The day Serie A produced nine goals in eight fixtures … and outscored La Liga

On Sunday 2 February 1969, 32 teams from two of Europe’s proudest leagues played 1,440 minutes of football and produced just 17 goals between them

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

Our first priority is a clean sheet – prima, non prenderlo – is the First Commandment of catenaccio. While the tactical system made famous by Italian clubs in the 1960s was a lot more complex than simply massed defence with a libero parked behind, not conceding goals was very much the key aim at the core of its dark and cynical heart.

The famous Italian journalist Gianni Brera mused that the perfect game of football would finish 0-0 and his reasoning was thus: goals were predominantly a result of errors during a passage of play, thus a game devoid of goals was by association a game devoid of telling mistakes. Errors would still occur in scoreless games of course, but a 0-0 result suggests that none of those mistakes was ultimately significant enough to lead to a goal and a shift in the match outcome.

Continue reading…

0

How Chemie Halle’s European dream ended in tragedy 45 years ago today

The night before Chemie Halle were meant to play PSV Eindhoven in a Uefa Cup tie a fire tore through their team hotel, killing one player and injuring others. The game was cancelled and the club have not qualified for Europe since

By Craig McCracken for Beyond The Last Man, of the Guardian Sport Network

A best-ever Oberliga placing for modest Chemie Halle should have represented the highpoint in the East German club’s history, yet tragically it was nothing more than the catalyst for an event that shocked European football and brought a terrible human cost for the club.

That third-place finish in the 1970-71 season was a welcome break from the club’s habitual middle-order ranking and earned them the bonus of European football the following season for just the second time in the club’s history. Drawn to play PSV Eindhoven in the opening round of the Uefa Cup, Halle performed valiantly to hold the Dutch side to a scoreless draw at home. There would be no second leg however.

Continue reading…