WORLD CUP OF SOCCER GROUP F: THROUGH A COLD WAR LENS
Group F teams include Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia. Stats and team info are courtesy of ESPN.
Nickname: GLI AZZURRI (The Blues)
Record: W 44/ D 19/ L 14
Best Performance: Winners in ’34, ’38, ’82, ’06
Group Stage Schedule:
June 14 vs. Paraguay – Draw
June 20 vs. New Zealand – Draw
June 24 vs. Slovakia – 9:30 AM ET
Italy is back to defend its title against the world. No team has pulled off back-to-back victories since Brazil won its second World Cup title in 1962. With many returning players from the 2006 championship side, GLI AZZURRI will look to Pirlo, Buffon, and Cannavrro to repeat their own history.
In Italy, competing forces in domestic politics dictated Cold War policy.
When World War II ended, it was assumed by many that Italy would fall under the Western “sphere of influence.” However, Italy was complicated. Major factors included: the legacy of Fascist anti-communism; anti-Americanism; the influence of the Catholic Church; the impact of the anti-Fascist resistance; the legacy of Italy’s recent civil war (1943-1945); and the presence of a mass communist party.
Italy’s stance regarding the shift in postwar Europe from anti-Fascism to anti-communism became an arena in the Cold War divide.
Italy’s stabilization and its Western orientation were not fully established until 1948-1949. Thus, the potential consequences of the country’s domestic divisions were of primary concern to both Washington and Moscow. Even after its inclusion in the Atlantic Pact, the nation was divided between communist and anti-communist factions.
The political conflict peaked during Italy’s 1948 election campaign.
The left-wing parties came out in opposition to the Marshall Plan. The moderate forces, supported by the Catholic Church, based their campaign on anti-communism and the perceived risk of Italy passing behind the Iron Curtain.
The United States was a major player, supporting the anti-communist forces through the promises of the Marshall Plan. Their position held sway with Italian public opinion.
In a major step toward stabilization, Italy joined NATO in April, 1949, confirming the country’s inclusion in the Western bloc.
Nickname: LA ALBIRROJA (The White and Red)
Record: W 6/ D 7/ L 9
Best Performance: Round of 16 in ’86, ’98, ’02
Group Stage Schedule:
June 14 vs. Italy – Draw
June 20 vs. Slovakia – Win
June 24 vs. New Zealand – 9:30 AM ET
This is Paraguay’s fourth consecutive World Cup appearance. LA ALBIRROJA nearly advanced to the Quarterfinals in ’98 and ’02, but didn’t advance out of the Group Stage in ’06. In 2010, striker Nelson Valdez will carry the palm branch in one hand and the olive branch in the other as the team attempts to bring home victory and goodwill for Paraguay.
Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguayan military officer and dictator from 1954 to 1989, benefited from the 1950s and 1960s Cold War ideology in the United States which favored authoritarian, anticommunist regimes.
Upon reaching Asunción, Paraguay’s capital and largest city, during his 1958 tour of Latin America, Vice President Richard M. Nixon praised Stroessner and Paraguay for opposing communism more strongly than any other nation in the world.
At that time, the main strategic concern of the United States was to avoid at all costs the emergence in Paraguay of a left-wing regime which would be ideally situated at the heart of the South American continent. Such a regime would provide a haven for radicals and a base for revolutionary activities around the hemisphere.
From 1947 until 1977, the United States supplied Paraguay with about $750,000 worth of military hardware each year, also training more than 2,000 Paraguayan military officers in counterintelligence and counterinsurgency.
Relations faltered somewhat during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, as US officials began calling for democracy and land reform. Kennedy’s administration threatened to withhold Alliance for Progress funds — about 40 percent of Paraguay’s budget — unless Paraguay made progress.
When Paraguay supported the United States intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, the United States became friendlier to Stroessner.
Relations between Paraguay and the United States changed substantially after the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1976. The congressional cut-off of military hardware deliveries in 1977 reflected increasing concern about the absence of democracy and the presence of human rights violations.
An economic downturn in the early 1980s caused discontent, which in turn led to more demands for reform. Many Paraguayans had to leave the country to look for work. In the early 1980s, some observers estimated that up to 60 percent of Paraguayans were living outside the country.
On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup headed by General Andrés Rodríguez. As president, Rodríguez instituted political, legal, and economic reforms, and initiated a rapprochement with the international community.
The June 1992 constitution established a democratic system of government and dramatically improved protection of fundamental rights.
Nickname: THE ALL WHITES
Record: W 0/ D 0/ L 3
Best Performance: Group Stage in ’82
Group Stage Schedule:
June 15 vs. Slovakia – Draw
June 20 vs. Italy – Loss
June 24 vs. Paraguay – 9:30 AM ET
New Zealand made it to its second World Cup on the final day of qualifying. Captain Ryan Nelsen, Chris Killen, Mark Paston, and THE ALL WHITES hope to carry the momentum into South Africa, and they may need it with Paraguay, Slovakia, and Defending Champion Italy making up Group F.
New Zealand’s alignment and participation in the Cold War was determined by the decision of the 1940s Labor government to back the United States and Great Britain in their disagreements with the Soviet Union. The decision was questioned, though not overturned, by the Left, with communists and others claiming that Labor had rejected both peace and socialism.
Thereafter, the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the war echoes that of many small states in the Western alliance, such as Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Like them, New Zealand remained aligned; like them, the alignment was qualified in a number of ways. The most persistent qualifications were these: a preference (especially in the Labor Party) for social and economic rather than military solutions to Cold War problems, for détente rather than hostility, for nuclear weapons test bans rather than testing; and for caution in the expenditure of either financial or human resources in support of Cold War operations. National attitudes and concerns included a fear of Japan in the 1950s, and antipathy to nuclear weapons ‘too close to home’ in the 1970s and 1980s.
Regarded as a war, the Cold War was New Zealand’s most protracted ‘military’ engagement. However, open combat was the exception not the rule. New Zealand was involved in Cold War-related combat operations only between 1950 and 1953 (Korean War), 1949 and 1960 (Malayan Emergency) and 1965 and 1971 (Vietnam War).
New Zealand provided crews for the Berlin airlift of 1948-49, and pledged in advance to send forces to the Middle East in the event of open war with the Soviet Union.
The Communist victory in the Chinese civil war led New Zealand to accept commitments to assist in the defense of Hong Kong. It continued to recognize the defeated Nationalist regime, based on Taiwan, even after Britain had recognized the new Communist government in Beijing.
Under the auspices of the United Nations, New Zealand gave military support to anti-communist South Korea when the communist North invaded. It allied with the United States in ANZUS in 1951, thereby committing itself to American Cold War policy in Asia.
New Zealand joined the US effort in Vietnam.
In 1971, a mission was reopened in Moscow and diplomatic relations were established with China.
New Zealand supported United States opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 but avoided a trade boycott.
In 1985 the fourth Labor government clashed with the United States over its ban on port visits by nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships. This distanced New Zealand from its Cold War allies and led the United States to suspend its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand. By then, the Cold War was drawing to a close.
Nickname: THE FIGHTING JONDAS
Appearance: 9th (1st as independent nation)
Record: W 11/ D 5/ L 14
Best Performance: Runner-Up in ’34, ’62 (as Czechoslovakia)
Group Stage Schedule:
June 15 vs. New Zealand – Draw
June 20 vs. Paraguay – Loss
June 24 vs. Italy – 9:30 AM ET
Slovakia qualified for its first World Cup after Poland suffered an on-goal in blizzard-like conditions. Led by striker Stanislav Sestak, THE FIGHTING JONDAS will hope for more than good luck as they attempt to step out of the Czech Republic’s shadow and write their own history in a tough Group F that includes Defending Champion Italy.
During the Cold War, Slovakia was part of the nation of Czechoslovakia.
At the end of World War II, the Soviet army was in parts of Germany and Austria, in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and in Poland. At the Yalta conference in February, 1945, Josef Stalin, representing the Soviet Union, had promised “free and unfettered” elections in Poland and in the other East European countries that it occupied.
The case of Czechoslovakia demonstrates most clearly how the Soviets went against Stalin’s wartime promise and imposed communism on an unwilling nation.
Since the war, Czechoslovakia had worked to achieve a non-aligned policy that best served its national interests.
When it came to foreign affairs the Czechs tended to ally themselves with the powerful (and geographically close) Soviet Union, but domestically the Czech government was restoring the democracy that had existed there in the time between the two world wars.
To hasten their economic recovery after World War II, the Czech government was in favor of accepting aid offered in the Marshall Plan.
But the Soviets did not intend to allow any state within their sphere of influence to become a democracy; this threatened the security offered by the buffer zone that the Soviets had created.
Stalin told the Czech leaders that they were not to accept the aid from the Marshall Plan. The nation watched its economy deteriorate while those of the western European states began to recover.
But economic stagnation was not all that was in store for the Czechs. After President Harry Truman announced the Truman Doctrine, Stalin perceived a challenge to his authority in Eastern Europe.
The communists carried out a coup in Prague in February of 1948. Though bloodless, the coup was nonetheless nasty. Leading politicians who advocated democracy were arrested and imprisoned, and the communists infiltrated the government. Shortly after the coup the Czech president, Edvard Benes, was ousted from power and replaced by the leader of the Czech communist party, Klement Gottwald. The last independent government in Eastern Europe had become communist.
In 1966 Czechoslovakia, following the lead of Romania, rejected the Soviet Union’s call for more military integration within the Warsaw Pact and sought greater input in planning and strategy for the Warsaw Pact’s non-Soviet members. These debates heated up in 1968 during the period of political liberalization known as the Prague Spring. Moscow felt challenged by these developments.
On August 20, 1968, Warsaw Pact forces–including troops from Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, and the Soviet Union–invaded Czechoslovakia. Approximately 500,000 troops, mostly from the Soviet Union, poured across the borders in a blitzkrieg-like advance.
By dawn on August 21, 1968, Czechoslovakia was an occupied country.
It was not until October 16 that agreement was reached for the partial withdrawal of the Warsaw Pact armies. The Bulgarian, East German, Hungarian, and Polish troops were ordered to leave the country, but Soviet units were to remain in what was referred to as “temporary stationing.” In the agreement, Czechoslovakia retained responsibility for defense of its western borders, but Soviet troops were to be garrisoned in the interior of the country. As events transpired, however, the major Soviet headquarters and four of its five ground divisions were deployed in the Czech Socialist Republic, where they remained in mid-1987.
The separation of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia is referred to as the ‘Velvet Divorce‘. It occurred in 1993, and was executed in a democratic and largely uneventful way.