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Born: Wednesday 17 January 1906, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: Tuesday 27 December 1966, Buenos Aires, Argentina (aged 60)
Guillermo Stábile's place in the history of football was assured from the moment that he finished as leading goalscorer in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the tournament provided his only experience of international football. His legendary status in Argentinian football was later enhanced by a spell of more than 20 years as manager of the national team which brought regular success in the South American Championship.
Stábile was born in the Parque Patricios district of Buenos Aires on 17 January 1906. As he began to play football as a child, it quickly became clear that his speed and agility made him ideally suited to playing on the right wing. His youth career began with local side Sportivo Metán, and his progress there soon attracted the attention of the city's leading clubs. In 1920, at the age of 14, Stábile joined Huracán and spent the next four years learning his trade within the youth teams.
In 1924, he made the move into the first team and had an immediate impact. His first major honour came in just his second season in 1925. Huracán won one of the two Argentinian league titles that were available at the time, beating Nueva Chicago after their opponents refused to play extra-time in a championship play-off. In his early years at Huracán, Stábile continued to play on the right wing but as his career developed he found himself playing more and more as a centre forward, and it would be there that he spent most of the remainder of his playing days.
In 1928 Stábile won a second league title as Huracán won the now unified Argentinian league by a single point from Boca Juniors. International honours were to prove elusive though, and Stábile had to wait until 1930 to get his chance at that level. Selected as part of the squad for the first World Cup in Uruguay, he was originally a back-up player and did not appear in Argentina's first group game, but with first choice centre-forward Roberto Cherro unavailable Stábile got his chance in the second match against Mexico.
His international debut could not have gone much better, as he scored a hat-trick in a 6-3 win. This was long thought to have been the first hat-trick in World Cup history, but more than 75 years later FIFA declared that he had been beaten to that feat by a couple of days when they awarded a disputed goal to the USA's Bert Patenaude. Stábile's second game, against Chile in the final group match, brought two more goals in a 3-1 victory which sealed a semi-final place. The semi-final was a comfortable 6-1 thrashing of the USA, in which Stábile scored twice more to take his personal tally to seven in three games.
In the final against Uruguay, Argentina fell behind early but quickly equalised, and seven minutes before half-time Stábile scored his eighth goal of the tournament to give his team a 2-1 lead. Ultimately, Argentina would be denied the title by a strong second half performance from the hosts brought three unanswered goals. However, Stábile's eight goals made him comfortably the leading scorer in the tournament, with no other player getting more than five.
Remarkably, he would never play for his country again but his performances had attracted the attention of European clubs. Moving to Italy to play for Genoa, Stábile scored a hat-trick on his debut for the club and during his time there even got a first taste of management as a player-coach, despite still being an important member of the first team. His time in Italy also brought a short spell at Napoli, before he moved to France in 1936 to play for Red Star in Paris. Continuing to gain experience as a coach, he served as player-manager at Red Star and in the final season of his playing career led the club to promotion to Ligue 1 in 1939.
Leaving France in 1939, Stábile was appointed manager of the Argentinian national team in the summer of that year and would hold the post until 1958, returning for a short second spell in 1960. His time in charge was characterised by great success at continental level but he was often denied the chance to match that one the global stage, and failure to do so when the opportunity came ultimately cost him his job.
His first tournament in charge was the 'extra' South American Championship in Chile in 1941, where Argentina won all four of their games to take the title. The following year Argentina narrowly missed out on another success, but from 1945 Stábile led his country on a great run of victories as they claimed three more titles in consecutive years. Any possibility of matching that success in the World Cup was taken out of Stábile's hands when Argentina withdrew from both the 1950 and 1954 World Cups ahead of the qualification stage.
Unusually, Stábile balanced his duties as national manager with jobs at club level, enjoying spells with San Lorenzo, Estudiantes and the club where he had enjoyed his greatest success as a player, Huracán. Success as a manager, however, would come with Racing Club de Avellaneda, who he led to a hat-trick of league titles in 1949, 1950 and 1951. At international level, further South American titles were won in 1955 and 1957, the latter being sealed with a very impressive 3-0 victory over Brazil.
Later that year, a 4-0 win over Bolivia in their final qualifying match gave Argentina a place in the World Cup in Sweden, and for Stábile finally a chance to manage in that tournament 28 years after he had been the leading scorer as a player. His team lost their opening game 3-1 to reigning champions West Germany, but beat Northern Ireland by the same score to set up a decisive final group game against Czechoslovakia. Had they won the match, Argentina would have reached the last eight but incredibly were beaten 6-1, a result which led to Stábile's 19 year reign as national manager coming to an end.
In 1960, Stábile returned to coach the national team again, leading them into the third edition of the short-lived Panamerican Championship, which they won to give him a seventh international title as a manager. The final game of that tournament would prove to be his last match in charge, and he ended his managerial career having led Argentina in 127 matches, of which he won more than two thirds. In his retirement, Stábile took job leading the National Coaching School, where he would remain until his death at the age of 60 in 1966.
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- Published on Thursday, 02 February 2012 16:44