United States v England (1950 FIFA World Cup)

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United States v England
Event 1950 FIFA World Cup First round
Date 29 June 1950 (1950-06-29)
Venue Estádio Independência, Belo Horizonte
Referee Generoso Dattilo (Italy)
Attendance 10,151 (official)
13,000 (reported)[1]

The United States men's soccer team defeated England 1–0 on 29 June 1950, in a group match of the 1950 FIFA World Cup at Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The result is notable as one of the biggest shocks in the tournament's history.

Before the game, England were heavy favorites against a hastily-assembled U.S. team, which was composed of part-time players. The game's only goal was scored by the U.S.'s Haitian-born centre forward Joe Gaetjens. This game and the U.S. team were profiled by author Geoffrey Douglas in his book The Game of Their Lives, which was made into a film of the same name (later renamed The Miracle Match).

Background[edit]

This was England's World Cup debut, the English Football Association having boycotted the previous three tournaments owing to a dispute with FIFA over payments made to amateur players,[2] which had been resolved four years earlier.[3] England and the United States were both drawn in Group 2, along with Spain and Chile: under the rules of the competition only the group winner from this four-nation round-robin would progress to the final stage. Each team had played one previous match in the group, England having beaten Chile 2–0 and the United States losing 3–1 to Spain.[4]

At the time, the English had a reputation as the "Kings of Football",[5] with a post-war record of 23 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws. They had beaten the Italians 4–0 and the Portuguese 10–0 in Lisbon two weeks before that. Conversely, the Americans, despite finishing third in the inaugural 1930 World Cup, had lost their last seven international matches (including the 1934 World Cup and 1948 Summer Olympics) by the combined score of 45–2, including heavy losses to Italy (7–1), Norway (11–0) and Northern Ireland (5–0). The odds were 3–1 the English would win the Cup, and 500–1 for the U.S.[6]:5 The people from Belo Horizonte were eager to watch the English team, with 10,000 tickets sold along with 3,000 distributed to associates of Sete de Setembro Futebol Clube, then-owners of the newly inaugurated Estádio Independência.[1]

England had Stanley Matthews available, who was widely considered one of the best players in the world at the time,[6]:99 but he had not played with the English team in the three international matches before the World Cup (in fact, he had joined the team late, having been touring Canada as part of another group of English internationals). As such, the selection committee (consisting entirely of Arthur Drewry, then president of the English/Wales Football League and later the president of FIFA) opted to stay with the team that had just defeated Chile. Matthews would be saved for later, supposedly more difficult, opponents.[7] As there were no substitutes allowed in those days, Matthews watched the game with the other reserves.[8]

The American team consisted of semi-professional players, most of whom had other jobs to support their families. Walter Bahr was a high school teacher, Frank Borghi drove a hearse for his uncle's funeral parlor[6]:14 and others worked as mail carriers or dishwashers.[9] One player, Ben McLaughlin, had to withdraw from the tournament because he could not get time off work.[7] The team had also been hastily assembled, and had only been able to train together once, and that was the day before they left for Brazil, which happened to be against the touring English team featuring Matthews[10] (Matthews did not play in that game, as he was injured.[11]) Three players—Joe Maca, Ed McIlvenny, and Joe Gaetjens, none of whom were U.S. citizens—had been added to the roster just before that game.[7] "We have no chance," recently appointed coach Bill Jeffrey told the press;[6]:16 he also declared his players "sheep ready to be slaughtered".[7] The English Daily Express newspaper wrote: "It would be fair to give [the U.S.] three goals of a start."[12]

Match[edit]

First half[edit]

England won the toss and elected to kick off. Within ninety seconds, Stanley Mortensen sent a cross from the left wing to Roy Bentley, who let off a shot that was barely pushed aside by U.S. goalkeeper Frank Borghi. By the 12th minute, England had six clear shots on goal but could not convert, with two shots hitting the post, one just going over the top, and another brilliantly saved by Borghi.[6]:22–24

The U.S. struggled to move to the attack, and finally managed a shot on goal in the 25th minute, which was blocked by English goalkeeper Bert Williams. The English counterattacked with three successive clear shots at the goal in minutes 30, 31, and 32, but failed to score. Mortensen twice went over the crossbar, and Tom Finney's header to the top corner was tipped away by Borghi.[6]:37–42

In the 37th minute, Bahr took a long shot from twenty-five yards out, but as Williams moved to his right to intercept, Gaetjens dived headlong near the penalty spot,[13] and grazed the ball enough to put it to the left of the English goalkeeper, whose momentum prevented him from changing direction, and into the back of the net. The crowd exploded as the U.S. improbably led 1–0. As the half drew to a close, Finney had a chance to equalise, but the whistle blew before he could shoot.[6]:62

The crowd, initially 10,000, increased as Brazilian locals heard radio coverage of the match.[7] Attendants were mostly supporting for the underdog Americans, cheering with Borghi's defenses and the missed English attacks.[1] According to Bahr, "The overwhelming majority was Brazilians, but they rooted for us the entire time. We didn't realize why until after. They [were] hoping we would beat England and that Brazil would not have to play England in the final game."[7] Some locals even jumped a short wall to enter the stadium through the playing field.[1]

Second half[edit]

The U.S. played with renewed confidence as the second half opened, creating another scoring opportunity in the 54th minute.[6]:102–104 In the 59th minute England was awarded a direct free kick but Mortensen's shot was well saved by Borghi. But England began threatening again, and it was fifteen minutes before the Americans were able to get another shot. With eight minutes left, Charlie Colombo brought down Mortensen with an illegal tackle at the edge of the penalty area. England pleaded for a penalty kick, but the referee ruled it was outside the box. From Alf Ramsey's resulting free kick, Jimmy Mullen headed the ball for what he thought was a goal, but Borghi tipped it away at the last instant, and despite the protests of the English players, the referee ruled that the ball had not crossed the line and thus there was no goal. England did not threaten again, but the U.S. had one final chance in the 85th minute: Frank "Peewee" Wallace drew Williams out of position and fired a shot at the empty net, only to be denied by a sliding goal line clearance by Ramsey.[6]:131–134

Details[edit]

29 June 1950
18:00 BRT
United States  1–0  England
Gaetjens Goal 38' Report
Estádio Independência, Belo Horizonte
Attendance: 10,151
Referee: Generoso Dattilo (Italy)
United States
England
GK Frank Borghi
RB Harry Keough
LB Joe Maca
RH Ed McIlvenny(c)[N 1]
CH Charlie Colombo
LH Walter Bahr
IR Gino Pariani
IL John Souza
OR Frank Wallace
OL Ed Souza
CF Joe Gaetjens
Manager:
Scotland William Jeffrey
GK Bert Williams
DF Alf Ramsey
DF John Aston
DF Billy Wright (c)
MF Laurie Hughes
MF Jimmy Dickinson
FW Wilf Mannion
FW Tom Finney
FW Jimmy Mullen
FW Stan Mortensen
FW Roy Bentley
Manager:
Walter Winterbottom

Assistant referees:
Charles de la Salle (France)
Giovanni Galeati (Italy)

Post-match[edit]

Remaining matches[edit]

Even after this loss, England could have kept their chances alive by winning their final pool match against Spain. However, they were unable to do this, losing 1–0, and finishing the First Round with a record of 1–0–2. The U.S. also lost their next match 5–2, versus Chile, ending their 1950 World Cup run with a First Round record of 1–0–2.[4] They would not qualify for the World Cup again until 1990. Spain advanced to the four-team Final Round, finishing fourth. Uruguay won the 1950 World Cup.[14]

Aftermath[edit]

John Souza, the U.S. inside right forward, was selected to the World Cup All-Star team by the Brazilian sports newspaper Mundo Esportivo, and remained the only American player selected to a World Cup All-Star team until Claudio Reyna in 2002.[11]

Newspaper headlines in most World Cup nations trumpeted the shocking upset, except ironically in the United States and England. There was only one American journalist at the World Cup: Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; he could not persuade the newspaper to pay for the trip, and had taken time off work to cover the event.[6]:4 His report of the match was the only one to appear in any major American newspaper.[6]:141 In England, newspapers at the time were generally small, and only had a single page devoted to sports. Because the English cricket team happened to suffer their first-ever defeat by the West Indies the very same day, that was the major story in most publications.[11] Legend has it that in publications that did report the World Cup match, so unexpected was the result that it was presumed that the 1–0 scoreline was a typing error and so it was reported that England had won on a scoreline of 10–0 or 10–1.[15] However, historical newspapers online at The British Newspaper Archive show that the story is a myth.[16]

Afterwards, a number of books and newspapers in England suggested that the U.S. team had arrived "through Ellis Island", meaning that the team was made up of imported players. In actuality, eight of the starting eleven were American-born, while the other three, Gaetjens, McIlvenny, and Maca, were not U.S. citizens, but had declared their intentions to gain citizenship (only Maca ultimately became a U.S. citizen in 1957[17][18]), and according to the rules of the United States Soccer Football Association at the time, were allowed to play. The U.S. was cleared of any wrongdoing by FIFA in a hearing on 2 December 1950.[11] Of the eight American born starters, five were from St. Louis, Missouri.[19]

England's blue kit, which had made its debut in this match, was never worn again.[20] Walter Bahr erroneously noted that England has never had a blue kit since then,[21] but a blue away kit was worn again in 1959 during a 1–4 loss to Peru.[22] This was the first of several shock losses for the English team. In 1953, they were defeated 6–3 by the "Magical Magyars" of Hungary and in 1954, they lost again to Hungary 7–1. The result of these losses was a reorganization of English football that culminated in England winning the 1966 World Cup on home soil.[5]

There was little attention given to the match in the U.S. at the time, and that continued to be the case until the 1994 World Cup, which was hosted in the U.S., although Pariani, an Italian American, was interviewed by the Italian press in 1990 when Italy and England played against each other for third place.[23] Geoffrey Douglas, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was inspired by news articles in the build-up to the 1994 tournament, and wrote a book about the 1950 match, having interviewed the five surviving members of the U.S. team. Entitled The Game of Their Lives, in 2005 it was made into a film of the same name directed by David Anspaugh.[24] Since then, the game has become known as the "The Miracle Match",[25] in reference to the Miracle on Ice from the 1980 Winter Olympics, in which the U.S. ice hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union.[26][27] The United States and England did not play another World Cup match against each other until the 2010 FIFA World Cup,[28] which ended in a 1–1 draw.[29]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Although Bahr regularly served as captain, McIlvenny was selected for the role for this particular match "because he was British".[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Viana, Arnaldo (7 December 2013). "BH volta a sediar jogos da Copa do Mundo". Estado de Minas (in Portuguese). 
  2. ^ "World Cup History: Uruguay 1930". BBC Online. 11 April 2002. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "World Cup History: Brazil 1950". BBC Online. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "1950 FIFA World Cup Brazil™". FIFA. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "The Miracle on Grass as USA beat England". ESPN. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Douglas, Geoffery (1996). The Game of Their Lives. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-3875-2. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Schaerlaeckens, Leander (26 February 2010). "Chasing Gaetjens". ESPNsoccernet. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Lisi, Clemente (2011-03-28). A History of the World Cup: 1930-2010. Scarecrow Press. p. 52. ISBN 9780810877542. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Lopez, Tobias (22 February 2004). "Walter Bahr remembers". US National Soccer Team Players Association. Archived from the original on 29 May 2006. 
  10. ^ Wangerin, David (2008). Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game. Temple University Press. p. 110. ISBN 1592138853. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Jose, Colin. "The Real Story about the 1950 U.S. World Cup Team". National Soccer Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 15 July 2010. 
  12. ^ Briggs, Simon (11 June 2010). "England v USA: Fabio Capello's men need to fear lesson of Belo Horizonte". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Longman, Jeré (10 December 2009). "How a ‘Band of No-Hopers' Forged U.S. Soccer's Finest Day". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Uruguay triumph brings heartbreak for Brazil". Previous FIFA World Cups. FIFA. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  15. ^ Wheelock, Sean (8 May 2002). "States of euphoria". BBC Online. Retrieved 13 October 2008. 
  16. ^ Sell, Amy (11 June 2014). "Copies of old newspapers reveal a World Cup myth". British Newspaper Archive. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Farnsworth, Ed (4 April 2014). "The US and the 1950 World Cup". Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "United States Index of Naturalizations". Ancestry.com. 1957.  (subscription required)
  19. ^ Lange, David (5 August 2011). "USA 1, England 0: The epitaph". Soccer Made in St. Louis. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "England's Blue kit 1950". England Football Online. 28 February 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Slater, Jim (26 May 2010). "US-England rematch evokes spirit of 1950 Cup shocker". Associated Press. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  22. ^ "England's Away Kit 1959". England Football Online. 28 February 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2010. 
  23. ^ Lange, David (5 August 2011). "USA 1, England 0: The epitaph". Soccer Made in St. Louis. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  24. ^ Kellem, Craig (2003). "Interview with author Geoffrey Douglas". HollywoodScript.com. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  25. ^ Lewis, Michael (August 2000). "Miracle on Grass". Soccer Digest. Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  26. ^ "England v USA". The Independent (London). 27 May 2008. Archived from the original on 1 June 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  27. ^ Biderman, David (24 June 2009). "Beating Spain Would Be Another U.S. ‘Miracle’". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  28. ^ Connolly, Kevin (2 June 2010). "US v England match recalls 1950 upset". BBC Online. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  29. ^ "Group Stage Matches". 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. FIFA. Retrieved 11 April 2012.