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Born: Friday 12 October 1917, Montevideo, Uruguay
Died: Tuesday 24 February 2004, Montevideo, Uruguay (aged 86)
Uruguayan goalkeeper Roque Máspoli was one of the heroes of his country's triumph in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, making a number of vital saves in the final match against the host nation. Winning numerous major honours as both a player and coach with Peñarol, he also had two separate spells as manager of the Uruguayan national team, the last of which saw him still in the job past his 80th birthday.
Born in Montevideo on 12 October 1917, Máspoli started out playing as a full-back and as a boy supported Peñarol. His football career however began within the other powerhouse of Uruguayan football, Nacional. It was within their youth setup that he first became and goalkeeper, going on to become one of the finest to ever come from South America. His agility and reflexes were remarkable for a man of his height and build.
Máspoli's playing career got off to a slow start. He was with Nacional from 1933 to 1939, during which time the club won three league titles, but he was never able to establish himself as a regular first team player. Eventually the club released him and he moved across Montevideo to mid-table side Liverpool. During the 1940 season, he helped Liverpool to finish in fifth place, just one place below Peñarol who had their worst season in nearly a decade. Needing to strengthen their time, Peñarol signed Máspoli ahead of the 1941 season.
For three seasons, Peñarol finished as runners-up to Nacional but in 1944 forced a championship play-off. Máspoli kept a clean sheet for 150 minutes as the first match finished goalless after two periods of extra-time, before a 3-2 Peñarol win in a replay gave him the first league title of his career. Following that season, Máspoli was called into the national team for the first time at the 1945 South American Championship in Chile, where he played all six matches as Uruguay finished in fourth place.
Peñarol retained their league title in 1945 and was ever present again for Uruguay in the South American Championship of 1946, but several years of frustration followed as Nacional regularly got the upper hand in the league. International appearances became rarer and having put on weight during the players' strike which caused the abandonment of the 1948 season, Máspoli began 1949 as second choice for Peñarol. However, first choice keeper Flavio Pereyra Nattero suffered an injury during that season and Máspoli seized his chance, helping Peñarol to claim the title without losing a match.
He broke back into the national team and was first choice for the national team in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Máspoli kept a clean sheet in the one-sided group game against Bolivia, which Uruguay won 8-0 to reach the final group stage, but in that group the team struggled at first. A 2-2 draw with Spain and a 3-2 win over Sweden set-up a must-win final match with the hosts, a match which would prove to be perhaps the finest of Máspoli's career.
Brazil dominated the first half with 17 shots on goal, but Máspoli regularly held their formidable forward line at bay with the highlight being a stunning point blank save from the unmarked Ademir. Although he was finally beaten early in the second half, his team fought back with goals from Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia to silence the estimated 200,000 strong crowd with a 2-1 win.
Máspoli went on to win three more league titles with Peñarol in 1951, 1953 and 1954, forming a strong backbone to the team alongside his international team-mate and captain Obdulio Varela. It was only a play-off defeat in 1952 that denied them a run of four titles in a row, with that 4-2 loss to Nacional coming in a match that Máspoli did not start, but came on for the second half with his team having already conceded four in the first period.
Máspoli was still first choice for Uruguay as they attempted to defend their world title in Switzerland in 1954. He kept two clean sheets against Czechoslovakia and Scotland in group stage but now in his late 30s was starting to show his age, having lost much of the agility he had shown four years earlier. After a quarter-final win over England, Máspoli was beaten twice in extra time by Hungary's Sándor Kocsis in a classic semi-final, which Uruguay eventually lost 4-2.
After one final major tournament with Uruguay in the 1955 South American Championship, Máspoli retired later that year and had a short spell as coach of Peñarol alongside captain Varela. Some years later, in 1963, he returned as coach permanently and led the club to a period of great success, winning three league titles in four season between 1964 and 1967. In 1966 he led Peñarol to the final of the Copa Libertadores, where they would face Argentina's River Plate. After winning one game each the final went to a replay, in which Máspoli's team memorably came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 after extra-time.
Now champions of South America, Máspoli led Peñarol on to their greatest triumph when they stunned Real Madrid in the Intercontinental Cup. After a 2-0 win in the home leg, few gave them a chance of holding that advantage in the Bernabeu but another 2-0 win sealed a famous 4-0 aggregate triumph. Although he left Peñarol in 1967, Máspoli would return to the club on several more occasions, most successfully in the mid-1980s when he led the club to two more league titles in 1985 and 1986.
Máspoli also managed clubs in Spain, Paraguay and Peru, as well as winning a league title in Ecuador with Barcelona. However, his most high profile job away from Peñarol was as manager of the Uruguayan national team. In 1980 he led his country to victory in the 'Mundialito', a tournament organised in Uruguay to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Cup and featuring previous winners of the tournament. Just as 30 years earlier at the peak of his playing career, Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 in the final.
Disappointingly, Máspoli was not able to follow up that success by taking the team to the 1982 World Cup as a home defeat to Peru wrecked Uruguay's hopes of qualifying and ended his first spell in charge. His second spell came many years later in 1997, by which time Máspoli was 79 years old and had been out of football for several years. Uruguay were again struggling World Cup qualifying and had been knocked out of the Copa América in the group stage, leading to Máspoli being offered the job again.
With one of Uruguay's weakest squads at his disposal, Máspoli was unable to turn around their fortunes as the team finished seventh in the nine team qualifying group. The final match, in November 1997, came just over a month after Máspoli's 80th birthday, after which he finally retired from coaching. In February 2004, he was taken into hospital with heart problems and died a couple of weeks later at the age of 86.
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- Published on Thursday, 23 February 2012 13:38