WORLD CUP OF SOCCER GROUP H: THROUGH A COLD WAR LENS
Group H teams include Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, and Chile. Stats and team info are courtesy of ESPN.
Nickname: LA FURIA ROTA (The Red Fury)
Record: W 22/ D 12/ L 15
Best Performance: Fourth Place in ’50
Group Stage Schedule:
June 16 vs. Switzerland – Win
June 21 vs. Honduras – Win
June 25 vs. Chile – 2 PM ET
Spain is playing its best soccer ever. LA FURIA ROJA are champions of Europe, reached Number One in world rankings for the first time, and went undefeated in qualifying. Led by star striker Fernando “El Nino” Torres, Spain is ready for anyone that steps into the ring, and hopes to make its 13th World Cup appearance historic.
General Francisco Franco emerged as leader and dictator of Spain in 1939. This meant that Spain remained the only fascist country in Europe after 1945.
Although isolated, economically and culturally, from its European neighbours, Spain’s anti-communist stance found support in the United States.
Even so, Spain was the only major Western European nation excluded from receiving postwar aid under the Marshall Plan. (Spain did not overtly participate in World War II. After the war, it pursued a policy of self-sufficiency, currency controls, and quotas, with little success.)
With the escalation of the Cold War, the United States reconsidered its position, and in 1951 embraced Spain as an ally, encouraged by Franco’s aggressive anti-communist policies.
Over the next decade, a considerable amount of American aid went to Spain, but less than its neighbors had received under the Marshall Plan.
Spain was kept out of the United Nations until 1955. By that time, the Cold War was in full swing.
In order to protect southern Europe, it became strategically important for the US to create a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. By 1963, there were US air bases in Fascist Spain.
On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance.
Nickname: SCHWEIZER NATI (The Swiss National Team)
Record: W 8/ D 5/ L 13
Best Performance: Quarterfinals in ’34, ’38, ’54
Group Stage Schedule:
June 16 vs. Spain – Win
June 21 vs. Chile – Win
June 25 vs. Honduras – 2 PM ET
Switzerland gave up zero goals in the 2006 World Cup, but still couldn’t make it out of the second round. In 2010, Manager Ottmar “Der General” Hitzfeld has a team with many tools on the pitch, and the SCHWEIZER NATI will use them all as it attempts to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in over 50 years.
At the end of the World War II, Swiss politics and neutrality were internationally compromised because Switzerland had maintained relations with Nazi Germany until the end of the war.
The Soviet Union only reluctantly accorded diplomatic recognition to Switzerland, which had been a herald of anticommunism in the interwar period.
In a 1946 agreement, the Western Allies, especially the United States, compelled Switzerland to compensate the looted western European central banks, requiring the payment of some 250 million Swiss francs.
The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of the diplomatic isolation it had endured after World War II. The Cold War allowed Switzerland to again become a respectable member of the international community.
Neutrality enabled it to play a mediating role between the two antagonistic camps, but, as a capitalist democracy with a strong citizens’ army, it was a tacit member of the noncommunist world and one of its key defenders.
Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies.
For many decades, Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN’s European headquarters and the country played an active role in many of the UN’s specialized agencies.
Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union.
An interesting and complicated mixture of neutrality, isolationism, solidarity, anticommunism, and militarism became the common, often complacent ideology of most Swiss, be they bourgeois or socialist.
Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.
Nickname: LOS CATRACHOS
Record: W 0/ D 2/ L 1
Best Performance: Group Stage in ’82
Group Stage Schedule:
June 16 vs. Chile – Loss
June 21 vs. Spain – Loss
June 25 vs. Switzerland – 2 PM ET
Honduras is enjoying its most exciting period of international play in decades. LOS CATRACHOS played brilliantly in qualifying, even if they needed a late goal from the USA to make it to South Africa. Star players Guevara, Pavon, and Palacios look forward to continued success as they lift the spirits of a nation.
In the 1980s, the United States saw Honduras as a strategic ally in Central America and military aid exceeded two hundred million dollars a year. The army expanded rapidly, and army roadblocks became a part of daily life.
Honduras served as a staging ground for American Cold War battles in Central America . In the neighboring countries of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, civil conflicts were raging and the United States saw a communist threat.
Located at the center of this battleground, Honduras became deeply enmeshed in the conflicts of its neighbors. It also adopted a US – promoted policy of protecting national security by stamping out perceived insurgent or subversive threats within its own borders—a policy that led to the torture and disappearance of hundreds of civilians.
Some 15,000 Nicaraguan Contras operated from clandestine bases in Honduras, the best-known of which is El Aguacate. Financed, equipped and trained by the United States, the Contras crossed the border into Nicaragua to attack and try to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.
The United States also built and staffed the Centro Regional Entrenamiento Militar (Regional Military Training Center), where Salvadoran and Guatemalan soldiers came for courses in counterinsurgency techniques for fighting the guerrilla movements in their countries.
Perhaps, more importantly, though, to soccer fans is the role Honduras played in the famous Soccer War.
The Soccer War or 100-hours War, was a four-day war fought by El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. It was caused by political conflicts between Hondurans and Salvadorans, namely issues concerning immigration from El Salvador to Honduras.
On July 14, 1969, the Salvadoran army launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States negotiated a cease-fire which took effect on 20 July, with the Salvadoran troops withdrawn in early August.
Eleven years later, on October 30, 1980, the two nations signed a peace treaty.
Nickname: LA ROJA (The Red One)
Record: W 7/ D 6/ L 12
Best Performance: Third Place in ’62
Group Stage Schedule:
June 16 vs. Honduras – Win
June 21 vs. Switzerland – Win
June 25 vs. Spain – 2 PM ET
As the legend goes, Chile finished third in ’62 by eating cheese before playing the Swiss, eating spaghetti before playing the Italy, and drinking vodka before playing the USSR. In 2010, LA ROJA will try a new tactic: to advance POR LA RAZON O LA FUERZA (by reason or by force) behind Humberto Suazo and Manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Compared to its neighbors, Chile was known for its stability in Latin America — at least until the 1960s.
By then the Cold War began to affect the mountainous nation, and Chile became a part of the Alliance for Progress.
During the 1960’s, Eduardo Frei served as president of Chile. Frei was endorsed by the Johnson administration and he sought to pass radical reforms. However, the more industrialized Chile became, the more Labor Unions asked for higher wages. The Labor Unions were not satisfied with the wages they received, leading to higher prices and more inflation.
Chilean youth adopted a Leftist view and began to protest the government with labor unions, both leaning towards the Communist Party in Chile.
In October, 1970, the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende took power in Chile.
President Nixon claimed to respect the outcome. But the CIA had undertaken a series of undercover initiatives meant to favor Allende’s opponents during the election campaign.
When Allende won anyway, Nixon authorized the Agency “to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.”
Over the next three years, the CIA persisted in its efforts to destabilize Allende’s regime.
Finally, a military coup overthrew Allende on September 11, 1973. It left Allende dead — probably by suicide. A reliably anti-communist government came to power.
Direct CIA complicity was never established, but Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger welcomed the outcome and sought to cooperate with the new Chilean leader.
Pinochet’s government imprisoned, tortured, and executed thousands of Allende supporters, some of them American citizens.
Chile, for many years a democracy, now had one of the most repressive dictatorships that Latin America had ever seen.
Also, after Pinochet obtained rule of the country, several hundred committed Chilean revolutionaries joined the Sandinista army in Nicaragua, guerrilla forces in Argentina or training camps in Cuba, Eastern Europe and Northern Africa.