Roberto Di Matteo was an understated player. Through Chelsea’s resurgence in the 1990s, he was at the heart of it. But it is as a manager that he achieved true greatness, leading Chelsea to lift both the Champions League and FA Cup trophies in a few months, in what was possibly one of the greatest managerial turnarounds in modern Premier League history.
This week we look at UEFA Euro 1968, a year of firsts, a year of chance and a very different competition to the tournament we know today. Italy were the host nation and went on to win their only European championship to date in a pretty unconventional manner – making their way past the USSR by means of a coin toss and beating Yugoslavia in a Final that was played twice.
The Premier League is home to hundreds of overseas players, but go back twenty years or so and there were much fewer in the English top-flight than there is today. Foreign players were seen as exotic, flamboyant and simply different from what English football fans were used to. One player who was certainly different, but for all the right reasons, was Gianfranco Zola.
With the English leagues kicking off ahead of those in continental Europe, we asked our only present non-Azzurro staffer Carlos Molano to get in touch with a football-mad friend from England: Andreas Duhn, whose love for the game has taken him in more than 100 stadiums worldwide. Here he gives us his appraisal of the English summer transfer window.
The Football League Championship kicked off last Friday, with Derby County winning 2-1 at Reading in the opening game. The Championship has been growing year after year, especially when it comes to the quality of players. In this new edition of our “The Grass Is Greener” column, we relive the history of the Rams, one of the most titled clubs in the English second division.
The World Cup Third Place Playoff is probably the saddest game in the whole football season calendar. The match no team would like to be playing, having just lost the chance to be part of the real deal that happens the following day. Belgium earned the third spot by beating England 2-0 in Saint Petersburg with goals by Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.
Croatia are the second finalist of World Cup 2018. Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic pushed the Balkan side into their first world final ever, overturning Kieran Trippier’s initial lead for England. The Vatreni will thus face France next Sunday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for the last act, a totally deserved achievement for the white-and-red checkered squad.
In 1996, the British band Three Lions released “Football Is Coming Home,” referring to the fact that England was hosting its first major football tournament since the 1966 World Cup. The song eventually evolved to hint at the Brits’ hopes of bringing home the World Cup trophy this year. Gareth Southgate’s team made one more step in that direction by beating Sweden 2-0.
A beautiful goal to England by lost talent Adnan Januzaj secured Belgium’s first place in World Cup Group H, in a match where both coaches Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez seemed more willing to preserve their top players, than go for the win – as qualifying from the second spot of the pool meant gaining access to an easier part of the knock-out phase bracket.
In a World Cup Group G where goal difference could be a tie-breaker for catching the first spot, England closed their gap with Belgium today by smashing 6-1 a Panamanian side that objectively proved inadequate for a world stage. Harry Kane scored three of those goals, suddenly jumping to the top of the scorers list. John Stones (2), and Jesse Lingard rounded up the score.
Last week, I met some clients from London who asked me “So, what are you going to do during this summer?” My answer was “I’m gonna root for England, of course.” Being an Italian, it goes without saying that their were filled with surprise: “Why?,” they asked. There are at least three reasons. Check the first episode of “Cup of Tea” to find out what they are!