Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A History of Idiosyncratic Events in Football – Part Three

--------------World Cup Shock--------------

With the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa due to kick-off in less than 100 days, it is somewhat ironic that if we roll the tape back almost exactly 60 years to the day, to the World Cup Finals of 1950, a comparable fixture rears its head again for the England national team.

The opening match in Group C takes place on the 12th June in Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium and sees England up against the United States, the first World Cup match-up between the two countries since the 1950 tournament in Brazil.

On the 29th June 1950 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city the USA (below) beat England 1-0, and in doing inflicted one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, then and still to this day !

At the time, the English considered themselves the "Kings of Football", with a post-war record of 23 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws. Conversely, the Americans had lost their last seven international matches (including the 1934 World Cup and 1948 Summer Olympics).

The USA, who had no professional league to draw upon and whose star player was a Scotsman who had been released by Third Division Wrexham, were certainly not among the pre-tournament favourites!

The American team consisted of semi-professional players, most of whom had other jobs to support their families. Midfielder Walter Bahr was a high school teacher, and others worked as mail carriers or dishwashers.

England were expected to enjoy something akin to shooting practice and an easy victory was apparently assured.
However things did not run to plan. The Americans had not read the script and scored the game's only goal when Joe Gaetjens headed in their only chance.
The English quickly began to complain.........the crowd were too close, the pitch was too hard and bumpy, and the players were still tired from a long domestic season.

But the excuses could not disguise the fact that they had lost in humiliating fashion to a team of part-timers from a country which was largely uninterested in football/soccer.

England lost their next match and failed to qualify for the final round, finishing the first round with a record of one win and two defeats.

The USA also lost their next match versus Chile, ending their own 1950 World Cup run. They would not qualify again for the World Cup for another forty years, until Italia 1990.

Match details:
29th June 1950
18:00 BRT
United States 1 – 0 England, Estádio Independência, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Attendance: 10,000
Referee: Generoso Datillo (Italy)
Goalscorer: Gaetjens 38'

England Team:
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

Interest in soccer within the United States has grown rapidly since the 1990's. This has been attributed to the fact that the 1994 FIFA World Cup was played in the United States, the first time the event was held in the U.S. This won the sport more attention from both the media and casual sports fans. As part of the United States' bid to host the World Cup in 1994, U.S. Soccer pledged to create a professional outdoor league for the first time since the collapse of the NASL a decade earlier. That effort culminated in the launch of Major League Soccer in 1996, which helped develop American players in a way that was not possible without a domestic league.

Many of these players competed in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where the United States did surprisingly well, reaching the quarter-finals after beating arch rivals Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16, before narrowly losing 1-0 to the eventual runners-up Germany in the quarter-finals.

Since the early 1990's, many American men have found opportunities to play soccer at the highest levels of foreign leagues.

The following is a list of Americans playing in the English League's alone.
Others ply their trade in European leagues in the likes of Croatia, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, Sweeden and Portugal.

In England's Premier League:

Cody Arnoux (Everton)
Landon Donovan (Everton)
Brad Friedel (Aston Villa)
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Tim Howard (Everton)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham)
Eddie Johnson (Fulham)
Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa)
Anton Peterlin (Everton)
Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
Jozy Altidore (Hull City)
Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers)

In England's Football League Championship:

Jay Demerit (Watford)
Frank Simek (Sheffield Wednesday)

In England's Football League One:

Mike Grella (Leeds United)
Jemal Johnson (Milton Keynes Dons)
Ian Joyce (Southend United)
Jon-Paul Pittman (Wycombe Wanderers)
Zak Whitbread (Norwich City)

I have no doubt that England boss Fabio Capello will have his team primed and ready come the 12th June, and I fully expect England to win a tough opening game against the USA, and avoid a repeat of the events of 60 years ago!

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