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Football News: Tournaments Part 1: The 1950 World Cup

Tournaments Part 1: The 1950 World Cup

Tournaments - Part 1: The 1950 World Cup


The fourth instalment of the FIFA World Cup had an extremely difficult gestation. First off the Second World War led to both the 1942 and 1946 tournaments to be cancelled. The trophy itself had been hidden by an Italian sports official called Dr Ottorino Barassi from the Nazis. Italy, as the winners in 1938, had kept the trophy in a bank vault in Rome. Barassi smuggled it out of the bank and kept it hidden under his bed for most of the war!

With Europe in ruins, FIFA were struggling badly to find anyone to host the competition. It was only at the 1946 FIFA Congress, as the plan for the next tournament to be held in 1949 was about to be shelved completely, that Brazil stepped forward with an offer to host it. Their offer was contingent on the dates being pushed back a year to give them time to prepare. Brazil in those days was an extremely prosperous nation and was a rising power in world football, challenging the traditional regional powerhouses of Uruguay and Argentina. The Brazilian bid was quickly accepted.


Info Box 1: Quick Facts

The 1950 World Cup was the 4th time the competition was held.
It was the first time Brazil hosted it.
It was the first since World War 2.
It was the first time the trophy was named the Jules Rimet Trophy as the tournament coincided with Jules Rimet's 25th anniversary as FIFA president.
The tournament took place between the 24th June and 16th July.
Just two players were able to return from the 1938 tournament - Erik Nilsson of Sweden and Alfred Bickel of Switzerland.
13 teams from 3 different confederations took part.
There were 22 matches played.
6 different venues hosted matches.
88 goals were scored, an average of 4 per game.
1,045,246 people officially attended the games in total.
Average attendance was nearly 61,000.
The top scorer was Ademir with 8 goals.
Uruguay's Alcides Ghiggia became the first player to score in every game.
Despite the players not having fixed squad numbers then, it was the first World Cup where players wore numbers on their backs.
Just one player in the entire tournament was playing club football in a foreign country - Newcastle United's Chilean international George Robledo.


Now FIFA had to focus on getting some participants. Unlike today there were no African teams involved, just Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa and Liberia were independent nations at the time, the rest of Africa was still suffering under European colonial rule. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China also took no part. Their main focus was on bringing Italy over, as they were the reigning champions, having won in both 1934 and 1938. Their attendance was put in serious jeopardy in 1949 when the Superga air disaster decimated the great Torino side of the time, which made up the main strength of the Italy squad. Eight Italian internationals died in the air crash, but they eventually agreed to go there, traveling by boat, which took weeks to make the journey.

Brazil as host and Italy as reigning champions qualified automatically, leaving 14 places up for grabs. Seven were allocated to Europe, six to the Americas and just one to Asia. Japan and Germany were banned due to the war, but their allies, which included Italy for a long portion of the war, were allowed in. Finland, despite fighting as allies of Nazi Germany between 1941-44 (following their country being invaded by Russia), were admitted to the qualifiers. The four British 'Home Nations' were invited to take part in qualification and the 1949-50 British Home Championship was used as a qualifying group, with the top two qualifying. The quartet had quit FIFA in 1928 after a dispute over payments to amateur players, but they had been refusing to enter FIFA competitions since 1920, partly because they did not want to face nations they had been fighting World War I against and partly in protest against foreign influence in the sport. Eastern Europe was, at the time, mostly hidden behind the 'Iron Curtain' and all of those nations refused entry for political reasons, which meant the Soviet Union, Hungary and Czechoslovakia missed out. Yugoslavia were the only representatives from Eastern Europe to take part in the qualifiers.


Info Box 2: Qualifying Groups

Qualifying Group 1:
Ireland (now known as Northern Ireland but then just Ireland)
First and second would qualify.

Groups 2, 3 and 4 would see the two lesser sides play each other home and away. The winner would then face the seeded team in the group home and away for a qualifying spot.

Qualifying Group 2:

Qualifying Group 3:

Qualifying Group 4:

Qualifying Group 5:
Republic of Ireland/Eire
They played a round robin of matches with the top side to qualify.

Qualifying Group 6:
Winners would qualify.

Qualifying Group 7:
They were to play each other home and away with the top two teams to qualify.

Qualifying Group 8:
Top two were to qualify.

Qualifying Group 9:
The teams were to play each other twice and the top two would qualify.

Qualifying Group 10:
Winner of the group was to qualify.


Qualifying Group 1 was the 1949/50 British Home Nations Tournament, with England, Scotland, Ireland (now known as Northen Ireland) and Wales fighting out for two qualifying places. Oddly, prior to the start of the tournament, the Scottish FA's chairman George Graham stated that Scotland would only take part in the World Cup if they won the Home Championships. Wales managed to score just 1 goal in their three matches, Ireland were thrashed 8-2 in Belfast by Scotland, which was bettered by England at Maine Road, who beat Ireland 9-2, the highest score registered in qualifying. Going into the final match, it was all to play for between Scotland and England at Hampden Park. Despite a capacity at the time of 133,300 the ground was so overfilled that people were having to be stretchered out of the crush. England managed to get a 1-0 win at the home of the Auld Enemy and won the Home Nations Tournament and the qualifying group. Despite Scotland captain George Young's pleas, Graham stood by his statement and the nation withdrew from the World Cup.

The second qualifying group saw a couple of first time entrants, in the shape of Turkey and Syria, face off against pre-war powerhouse Austria. Turkey had withdrawn from qualifying in 1934 without playing a game, but Syria did not even exist until 1946. The Middle East nation had been a French mandate up until turning independent in 1946 and their initial match in the group was their first ever as an independent state. They did not even make it to their first match before an American-led military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in March 1949. Eight months later Syria were thrashed 7-0 by Turkey in the first leg of their match, which was to be a two-leg home and away play-off to face Austria. The defeat was quickly followed by Syria's withdrawal, probably to avoid further embarrassment for the new dictatorship, leaving Turkey to go through and face Austria for a place in the World Cup proper. Austria also withdrew, claiming that their side was too inexperienced and the qualifying place was handed to Turkey. Turkey then also withdrew due to travel costs, meaning no one went to Brazil from qualifying group 2.

Group 3 saw Yugoslavia, the first Socialist state in Europe to take part, face newly formed Israel in a two-legged play-off for the right to face France for a place in the finals. Yugoslavia did take part in 1930 but Israel had only been created in 1948 and made their international football debut that year in a match against USA. Though their precursor, the British mandate of Palestine, had competed in both 1934 and 1938. Yugoslavia thrashed Israel 6-0 in Belgrade and then finished the job off with a 5-2 win in the return leg in Tel Aviv to win through to face France. Two 1-1 draws followed in the home and away legs, to set up a play off at a neutral venue. That took place in December 1949 in Florence, with the Yugoslavs clinching a 3-2 win to get group 3's place in the World Cup. France were then offered a place anyway, which they accepted.

Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium made up group 4, with the Swiss facing Luxembourg for the right to play Belgium. Despite Luxembourg managing four goals in the two games, Switzerland cruised through with a 5-2 win in Zurich and a 3-2 win in the city of Luxembourg. Belgium, who had taken part in the three previous World Cups, then withdrew, allowing the Swiss to progress to their third successive World Cup.

The fifth group was played as a round robin tournament between Sweden, Eire (now Republic of Ireland) and Finland, with the side that finished top of the group winning a place at the World Cup. Confusingly some of the players who represented Eire also represented Ireland in Group 1 during their qualifiers! Both teams also wore almost identical kits consisting of green shirts with shamrock crests. The first few games saw Finland out of the running for World Cup qualification and they withdrew before their final match against Sweden. No doubt they afraid of getting another humiliating defeat as they had lost 8-1 in Sweden. Sweden beat Eire 3-1 in the final game in the group meaning Sweden got the qualifying spot for group 5, despite playing a game less than Eire, to reach their third successive World Cup finals. Eire were then invited to take part anyway, but they turned the invite down due to the travelling costs involved with the country struggling badly economically at the time.

Group 6 was just the Iberian duo Spain and Portugal, which saw Spain go through after beating Portugal in Madrid and drawing in Lisbon. FIFA then offered Portugal the chance to replace Turkey in Brazil.

Group 7 was South American trio Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, who were to play each other home and away and the top two teams would qualify for the World Cup. Argentina had a dispute with the Brazilian Football Federation and withdrew before a ball was kicked, allowing Bolivia and Chile to qualify without playing a single game.

The other South American group, Group 8, was Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru. After seeing the draw, both Ecuador and Peru withdrew before any matches took place, allowing both Uruguay and Paraguay to go through to the finals without kicking a ball in anger.

The North and Central American nations made up Group 9, as the group also doubled as the 1949 North American Football Confederation Championship (NAFCC). The NAFCC took place in Mexico in September 1949 with the three teams, USA, Mexico and Cuba to play each other twice and the top 2 qualifying for the World Cup. In those days countries set their own eligibility requirements for players to play for their national team. Cuban rules, at the time, stated that you could become a citizen within 24 hours if you spoke Spanish. They attempted to use that to their advantage after drawing their first game 1-1 against the USA. Their second game saw an almost entirely new team, believed to be Argentines, but it was not enough to help them and they finished bottom of the group. Mexico were NAFCC champions and qualified for the World Cup along with the USA. The US were hoping for better than their last international tournament. They had gone to the 1948 Olympics only to be eliminated immediately in a 9-0 hammering at the hands of Italy. The humiliation did not end there for the USA though as they played two friendlies before returning home and lost 11-0 to Norway and 5-0 to Ireland.

The final group was Group 10 and consisted of the Asian countries of Burma, Indonesia, Philippines and India. Burma had never even played an international fixture and decided now was not the time to pop that particular cherry and withdrew. Indonesia and Philippines also both withdrew without playing a game, leaving India as Asia's sole representative.


Info Box 3: Stadiums

Estadion do Maracana, Rio De Janeiro - capacity 200,000.
Estadio do Pacaembu, Sao Paulo - capacity 60,000.
Estadio Sete de Setembre, Belo Horizonte - capacity 30,000.
Estadio dos Eucaliptos, Porto Alegre - capacity 20,000.
Estadio Ilha do Retiro, Recife - capacity 20,000.
Estadio Vila Campanema, Curitiba - capacity 10,000.


On 22nd May 1950 the draw was held for the World Cup groups and the four groups were decided. Group 1 consisted of hosts Brazil, Mexico, Yugoslavia and Switzerland. Group 2 was England, Spain, Chile and USA. Group 3 was Sweden, Italy, Paraguay and India, while Group 4 put Uruguay, France, Portugal and Bolivia together.

India then withdrew from the competition, citing travel costs, lack of practice time and team selection issues. At the time it was widely reported that India withdrew because of a FIFA ban on players playing barefoot as India had mostly played barefoot at the 1948 Olympics. However that happened because it drew large crowds in Europe to watch players play barefoot, while playing in club football most of the players used boots. All would use them if the ground was soft and often players would put boots on at half-time. Despite their complaints about costs, Brazil had actually offered to pay their expenses and India's captain Sailen Manna later told Sports Illustrated that the World Cup was just not seen as all that important: "We had no idea about the World Cup then. Had we been better informed, we would have taken the initiative ourselves. For us, the Olympics was everything. There was nothing bigger. Indian football would have been on a different level had we made that journey."

Just over a week after the draw was made, on the 30th May 1950, the fixtures were announced, but the grounds were not yet allocated due to Portugal's lack of decision over whether or not to accept their invitation to the tournament. On the 1st June 1950 some of the venues, including those for England's games, were announced. Less than a week later France withdrew because of the amount of travelling they would be required to do. The French would have had to travel 2,174 miles (3499km) between 25th and 29th June. Portugal had also decided against taking part, leaving just 13 teams and only 2 of them in Group 4.


Info Box 4: World Cup Groups

Group 1: Brazil, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Switzerland.

Group 2: England, Spain, Chile, USA.

Group 3: Sweden, Italy, Paraguay, India.

Group 4: Uruguay, France, Portugal, Bolivia.


The Brazilian organisers had come up with an unusual method of deciding the winner of the Jules Rimet trophy for this edition. One that had not been used before and would never be used again. Due to the amount of money that had been invested, they wanted as many games as possible to recoup it. Previous World Cups had been straight knockout tournaments and featured just 16 games, so they changed the set up to have four groups and then a round robin tournament for the group winners. That guaranteed 30 matches, with the added bonus of meaning European teams would play at least 3 games to make it worth their travel. FIFA were not convinced initially but Brazil threatened to withdraw as hosts if their idea was not implemented. The group games would award 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. In the event of a tie on points in the final group standings, the winner would be decided by a play-off. The set up was extremely chaotic, with the groups having no geographical basis, so that some teams had to cover large distances. Brazil, on the other hand, had two matches in Rio and the other was in nearby Sao Paulo.

The World Cup opened with hosts Brazil beating Mexico 4-0 on 24th June, but it was not all plain sailing from the hosts. Yugoslavia laid down a marker by getting a 3-0 win over Switzerland. In the second round of games Yugoslavia won again, this time 4-1 over Mexico, while Brazil could only manage a 2-2 draw with the Swiss. This put Brazil's coach Flavio Costa under immediate pressure, he even required a police escort from the arena after the result. The results meant the Swiss and Mexicans were out with a match left to play but the Yugoslavs would face Brazil with a place in the final round robin stage at stake. The match did not even begin before the Yugoslavs were faced with difficulties. The stadium, like most of the World Cup stadiums, was unfinished (in fact the Maracana was not even fully completed until 1965, during the tournament the roof was held up by scaffolding) and as the Yugoslavs were leaving their dressing room one of their players, Rajko Mitic, banged his head on an iron girder. A gash on his forehead required treatment, but the referee refused to delay the kick-off and Brazil faced just ten men until Mitic was patched up. By the time the heavily-bandaged Mitic made it on to the pitch Brazil were 1-0 up and went on to win 2-0.


Info Box 5: World Cup Group 1

Brazil W2 D1 L0 GS8 GC2 5pts
Yugoslavia W2 D0 L1 GS7 GC3 4pts
Switzerland W1 D1 L1 GS4 GC6 3pts
Mexico W0 D0 L3 GS2 GC10 0pts

24 June 1950 Brazil 4-0 Mexico Ademir 30, 79, Jair 66, Baltazar 71

25 June 1950 Yugoslavia 3-0 Switzerland Mitic 59, Tomasevic 70, Ognjanov 84

28 June 1950 Brazil 2-2 Switzerland Alfredo 3, Baltazar 32 - Fatton 17, 88
Brazil's coach Flavio Costa required a police escort from the arena after the result.

28 June 1950 Yugoslavia 4-1 Mexico Bobek 20, Z Cajkovski 23, 51, Tomasevic 81 - Ortiz 89 (pen)

1 July 1950 Brazil 2-0 Yugoslavia Ademir 4, Zizinho 69
Yugoslavia were forced to start the match with just 10 men as one of their players, Rajko Mitic, banged his head on an iron girder in the unfinished stadium, leaving a gash on his forehead as he was leaving the dressing room. The referee refused to delay the kick-off and by the time the heavily-bandaged Mitic made it on to the pitch Brazil were already 1 up.

2 July 1950 Switzerland 2-1 Mexico Bader 10, Antenen 44 - Cesarin 89
This match was notable for being the first time a national team did not play in their own kit. Both the Swiss and Mexicans turned up with just their red kits, the Mexicans won the coin toss but waived their right to wear their own kit and instead borrowed one from local Porto Alegre side Esporte Clube Cruzeiro. It was vertical blue and white stripes.


Group 2 saw one of the big pre-tournament favourites, England, making their debut in the competition. In those days England were seen as the "Kings of Football" according to the Brazilian press, with Lloyds of London even insuring the team for $3m before they went away. They had huge stars, such as Billy Wright, the Wolverhampton Wanderers star who was the David Beckham of his day, even marrying a pop star, Stan Mortensen, Tom Finney, Jackie Milburn and Stanley Matthews. Future England manager Alf Ramsey, then a Tottenham Hotspur player, was also in the squad, as was test cricketer Willie Watson, though he did not make a single appearance in Brazil. However the England squad was unhappy, with large fractures between players which the head coach Walter Winterbottom was never able to resolve. The pressure on them was huge, the Brazilian public saw them as the main threat and went along to watch them and cheer on their opposition.

The amateurs from America had a difficult build up to the World Cup as well, with one of their key players, Philadelphia Nationals' Benny McLaughlin forced to withdraw from the squad as he was unable to get time off work to go to Brazil. With the whole squad having work during the week, they were only able to meet up and train on Sundays. A day before they left to travel to Brazil they faced an All-England team, made up of players who were not deemed good enough to make the England squad. England won 1-0 and, at the post-match banquet the secretary of the FA, Stanley Rous, warned the USA that the All-England players had only scraped a 1-0 win because they were exhausted after a long tour of America, where they had scored 66 goals and conceded 13 in their 9 matches. Rous told them: "When you go to Brazil and play the England national team, then you will find out what football is all about."

The group started as expected with England beating Chile 2-0 and Spain, despite losing an early goal, beating the USA 3-1. The US goalkeeper actually called it a "moral victory" as "they were figured to beat us by about eight or nine goals." Clearly the group was between the two European sides and Spain also beat Chile 2-0 to put more pressure on England ahead of their match against the USA. For all of the hype and expectation, England had never actually played a competitive match outside of the Home Championships prior to the 1950 World Cup. But having beaten Chile fairly easily and now set to face team of amateurs, no one saw their lack of experience as any kind of issue. USA's coach Bill Jeffrey even told a reporter before the game that "we have no chance". England were 3-1 to win the tournament, while USA were 500-1 outsiders with a team that included a dishwasher, two postmen, a PE teacher and a mill worker. It was a match that you expect to see in the third round of the FA Cup, with a team of amateurs (and usually at least one postman and teacher amongst them) facing a top tier professional side. As so often happens in the cup, you have to expect the unexpected in those circumstances, though John Thompson writing in the Daily Mirror the day before the game showed that England's hubris was an issue: "The only unanswered question seemed to be the size of the American's defeat".

England had a large English ex-pat community in Belo Horizonte, where the match was to take place and the English arrived there 4 days early to train. The USA only arrived a day before the game and had no time to train. They were also on a run of 7 defeats in a row. But England started out with a crucial error, judging the game to be so easy that they decided to rest star man Stanley Matthews and it came back to bite them. USA's keeper Frank Borghi, once a minor league baseball player and now a hearse driver in the US's home of football St Louis, made a string of saves to keep England out before the US broke and Walter Bahr, the PE teacher, crossed for Joe Gaetjens to score in the 38th minute. In the early moments England players had strolled back laughing after missing a chance to score, but as the game wore on the laughter vanished. With every moment that passed, the Brazilian crowd's support for USA grew and then Gaetjens goal saw the crowd erupt. A local radio station was covering the game and attendance grew from just 10,000 at the start as the coverage drew locals in to watch. It saw official attendance figues as 30,000 by the end of the game! England continued to attack almost constantly then, in the 82nd minute, Stan Mortensen broke through on goal, only for US defender Charlie Colombo to hack him down from behind. His performance was enough to draw a number of offers of professional football in Brazil, but Colombo turned them down.

At the end of the game, in a result that became known as the "Miracle on Green", the crowd swarmed onto the pitch and bore the victorious American team off the pitch on their shoulders. A number of the team did go looking for Stanley Rous to remind him of his "nice speech", but the FA Secretary had quickly exited the stadium. The result was so unbelievable even the head of the US Soccer Football Association, Joe Barriskill, said: "I couldn't believe it when they told me we had won 1-0, I said, 'who the hell you think you're kidding?' I immediately started to make phone calls. I thought I lost my mind. I had to telephone England to find out if it was true. And it was true. I could have dropped dead." In England, when the telegram came through with the result there was disbelief. Most believed it was simply a mistake and a 1 had been missed off, some newspapers even printed the result as such in their next edition, reporting a 10-1 victory for England. Later, when it was realised what the result actually was, accusations began to fly around suggesting the USA had illegally fielded foreign players. Gino Piriani was initially pointed at, but he had been born and raised in St Louis, so the accusers then turned the fingers of blame onto Ed McIlvenny, Joe Maca and Joe Gaetjens, none of whom were US citizens.

Maca had even previously faced England in 1945 playing for Belgium. But, in those days a player only had to declare his intention to acquire citizenship by "filing for papers" to play for a country they were not a citizen of. The English FA itself never made any kind of formal complaint and FIFA cleared the USA of any wrongdoing. Maca was the only one of the trio who went on to actually follow through and become a US citizen. McIlvenny moved to England to play for Manchester United.

Gaetjens life before and after the World Cup is a full story in itself. The goalscorer was thought to have come from impoverished circumstances because he was working as a dishwasher in 1950, but his family was actually wealthy. The fairytale said he learnt to play barefoot on the streets of Port-au-Prince, but the truth was he was wearing boots in the back garden of the family home. Before moving to the US he had played for L'Etoile Haitienne and won the Haitian championship in both 1942 and 1944. With football not paying the bills and no space for him in the family business he was sent to Columbia University in the US to learn accounting. He was just doing the dishwashing as a side job while studying, as well as playing for Brookhatten for $25 a game. The film that was made about this match, 'The Game of Their Lives" showed even less willingness to stick to the truth and pictured Gaetjens as a voodoo practitioner, playing on the stereotype of Haitians. However he actually was a practising Catholic. Gaetjens went to France to play professionally after the World Cup, until returning to his homeland of Haiti during the reign of 'Papa Doc' Duvalier. In 1964 he was arrested by Duvalier's secret police and was never seen again. His body was never found.

The game and its result saw a huge burst in the popularity of the sport and the team, but the USSFA failed to capitalise. They rejected offer after offer of foreign tours and let the wave of excitement that had been created die out. It was an opportunity badly missed and their only idea to try to move the sport forward was to offer to play England in a home and away series in 1951 and 1952, but England already had a full schedule of matches and so "reluctantly declined". It did not help the US cause that the only journalist in attendance from the country was there on holidays after his paper, St Louis Dispatch, rejected his request to go to Brazil to cover the tournament. Dent McSkimming (yes that really was his name) according to colleague Keith Schildroff, won the office Kentucky Derby pool and then "collected his winnings, worked half his shift, and took a long lunch break". An extremely long lunch break that lasted two and a half months! The result left England needing a big win over Spain in their final group game, but instead they lost to Spain 1-0 to go out with a whimper. The USA returned to type in their final match and were thrashed 5-2 by Chile to finish bottom of the group.


Info Box 6: World Cup Group 2

Spain W3 D0 L0 GS6 GC1 6pts
England W1 D0 L2 GS 2 GC2 2pts
Chile W1 D0 L2 GS 5 GC6 2pts
USA W1 D0 L2 GS4 GC8 2pts

25 June 1950 England 2-0 Chile Mortensen 39, Mannion 51

25 June 1950 Spain 3-1 USA Igoa 81, Basora 83, Zarra 89 - Panani 17

29 June 1950 Spain 2-0 Chile Basora 17, Zarra 30

29 June 1950 USA 1-0 England Gaetjens 38

2 July 1950 Spain 1-0 England Zarra 48

2 July 1950 Chile 5-2 USA Robiedo 16, Cremaschi 32, 60, Prieto 54, Riera 82 - Wallace 47, Maca 48 (pen)


The third group was a more straightforward affair, with just three teams. Sweden topped the group by beating Italy, the reigning champions, and drawing with Paraguay. Italy were hampered by spending weeks on board a ship to get to South America, as well as having lost their best players to the Superga air disaster. They had enough to beat Paraguay and finish the group in second place, while Paraguaypropped up the table.


Info Box 7: World Cup Group 3

Sweden W1 D1 L0 GS5 GC4 3pts
Italy W1 D0 L1 GS4 GC3 2pts
Paraguay W0 D1 L1 GS2 GC4 1pt

25 June 1950 Sweden 3-2 Italy Jeppson 25, 68, Andersson 33 - Carapellese 7, Muccinelli 75

29 June 1950 Sweden 2-2 Paraguay Sundqvist 17, Palmer 26 - Lopez 35, Lopez-Fretes 74

2 July 1950 Italy 2-0 Paraguay Carapellese 12, Pandolfini 62


Group 4 was essentially just a play-off between Uruguay and Bolivia for the right to go into the final group. Bolivia suffered a humiliating 8-0 thrashing against Uruguay to see them through to the next round at a canter.


Info Box 8: World Cup Group 4

Group 4:

Uruguay W1 D0 L0 GS8 GC0 2pts
Bolivia W0 D0 L1 GS0 GC8 0pts

2 July 1950 Uruguay 8-0 Bolivia Miguez 14, 40, 51, Vidal 18, Schiaffino 23, 54, Perez 83, Griggia 87


The final round was also a group stage, consisting of the four group winners, Brazil, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. The Brazilian people were extremely confident of their nation's chances and expectations rose further as the first round of matches saw Uruguay draw 2-2 with Spain, while Brazil annihilated Sweden 7-1. After the second round of matches, which saw Uruguay pip Sweden 3-2 as Brazil thrashed Spain 6-1, the whole of Brazil grew to expect victory ahead of their final game. Sweden beat Spain 3-1 before the game that has become immortalised, incorrectly as the 'final', with Brazil facing Uruguay at the Maracana. Ahead of the game, tickets for the game were sold in one of Rio's biggest department stores and were gone in just a few hours, with large blocks snapped up by touts. The lengthy queues of fans who missed out grew enraged and it turned into a riot, windows being smashed and the store looted. Police managed to seize 14,000 tickets back from touts and they were resold to the fans at face value.

Brazil's confidence knew no bounds, they even had a samba band on the sidelines set to play a new song entitled 'Brazil the Winners' on the final whistle! Brazilian fans were of the same mind and many held celebrations before the match was even played. Several newspapers had already declared the match as a victory for Brazil, including O Mundo, whose early edition newspaper on the day of the game was printed with a picture of the Brazil team and the headline: "These are the World Champions". Uruguay's captain Obdulio Varela was angered when he saw it and bought as many copies he could and laid them out on the bathroom floor of the Uruguay locker room and encouraged his teammates to urinate on them. The mayor of Rio, Angelo Mendes de Moraes, gave a short speech whereupon he congratulated the Brazilian team on their victory: "You, players, who in less than a few hours will be hailed as champions by millions of compatriots! You, who have no rivals in the entire hemisphere! You, who will overcome any other competitor! You, who I already salute as victors!" Even FIFA was sure of a Brazil win, with 22 gold medals made up with the names of the Brazilian players on them and Jules Rimet only prepared a speech for a Brazil win. The start of the game was delayed while a celebratory shower of confetti was cleared off the pitch. It is estimated that as much as a tenth of Rio's population was in the stadium.

"It was a fantastic atmosphere. Their supporters were jumping with joy as if they'd already won the World Cup. Everyone was saying they'd thrash us three or four nil. I tried not to look at the crowd and just to get on with the match." - Alcides Ghiggia.

The Uruguayan team was sent out with orders to defend by their manager, but Varela told the players to ignore the instructions as it would lead to Brazil destroying Uruguay as they had done with Spain and Sweden before them. The first half was notable for two things, Brazil creating a number of chances but failing to score and Varela appearing to punch Brazil defender Bigode in the 28th minute, though both teams later downplayed it as a "tap". The second half kicked off and just two minutes in Brazil finally opened the scoring through Friaca. The crowd went wild, firing off fireworks and rockets, though they were not meant to have been allowed to bring them in to the stadium. This was the moment when Varela showed his intelligence and leadership by timewasting to ensure the crowd cheered itself hoarse and make them quieter for the rest of the match. To that end Varela began an argument with the linesman about his failure to raise his flag for offside: "Let them shout, in five minutes the stadium will seem like a graveyard."

Varela's prediction was not quite correct, it was not until the 66th minute that the crowd went quiet, following Schiaffino equaliser for the Uruguayans. Brazilian forward Chico Buarque later said: "When the players needed the Maracana the most, the Maracana was silent." With the crowd subdued, Uruguay gained the edge and in the 79th minute Alcides Ghiggia completely silenced the ground as he scored to give them the lead: "Only three people, with just one motion, silenced the Maracana: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me." The only sound from the arena, as Brazil poured forward in waves to try and rescue the draw which would have been enough to give them the trophy, was the sound of despair. Without the backing from the crowd, Brazil's attempts fell flat and the game ended with stadium doctors working to treat hundreds who were having fits of hysteria. A handful were taken to hospital as the doctors were unable to treat them. Brazil as a nation was stunned, one man committed suicide and three had heart attacks.

The planned ceremony to award the trophy to the winners in the centre circle had to be cancelled as Jules Rimet later recounted: "Everything was foreseen, except for the winner. At the end of the match, he had to hand over the cup to the captain of the winning team. An honorary corridor had to be pulled from the tunnel to the middle of the field, where the winning team captain had to wait for me. Of course, Brazil. I prepared my speech and went to the dressing room a few minutes before the end of the match. But as I walked into the hallway, a desperate silence prevailed at the stadium. Neither the hallway nor the national anthem, nor the speech nor the solemn celebration. I was alone with the cup in my hand and without knowing what to do. In the midst of the turmoil I managed to find the captain of Uruguay, Varela, and, almost secretly, I handed over the golden statue, shaking my hand, and I left without being able to say a word of congratulations to his team."

Rio went into what can only be called a period of mourning, with many bars and restaurants shut that night as no one was in the mood to go out. Pele said that it was the first time he had seen his father cry. Anger also spread quickly, with a statue of the Mayor of Rio knocked over for his congratulatory speech ahead of the match. Brazil's coach, Flavio Costa, is rumoured to have disguised himself as a nanny to escape the stadium. Racism reared its ugly head with Brazil's black players scapegoated, particularly goalkeeper Maocir Barbosa, despite him having been key to Brazil's wins prior to the last game. Most of the abuse he took was racial in nature. Barbosa was seen as a jinx for the rest of his life, Mario Zagallo stopping him meeting then Brzilian keeper Claudio Tafferel in 1994 before a qualifying match against Uruguay out of superstition. The Brazilian national team did not play another game for two years after this defeat and would never again wear the white kit from this final, instead they adopted their now familiar yellow and green kit.

The victory was bitter sweet for the Uruguayan players, Varela in particular was badly affected by the scenes he witnessed around Rio after walking around the area following the game: "I felt sorry when I saw how desperate were all those people." Returning to their country, Varela was not much happier: "The only thing we achieved by winning that title was to make the Uruguayan leaders happy, giving themselves gold and giving us silver medals. That was the gratitude." Varela dropped out of the spotlight and lived out his life in poverty. Really though, the main thing that happened due to what became known as the Maracanazo, was the damage heaped upon the Brazilian psyche. It showed clearly when Brazil once more hosted a World Cup and flopped miserably.


Info Box 9: World Cup Squads:

Brazil Squad:
Head coach: Flavio Costa
Gk Barbosa
Df Augusto (c)
Fw Friaca
Fw Jair
Fw Alfredo
Mf Ely
Df Nilton Santos
Mf Danilo
Fw Zizinho
Fw Chico
Fw Baltazar
Df Juvenal
Mf Bauer
Mf Bigode
Fw Ademir
Fw Adaozinho
Gk Castilho
Fw Maneca
Df Nena
Mf Noronha
Fw Rodriguez
Mf Rui

Final team:
Macir Barbosa was a 29 year old goalkeeper who was caught out expecting Ghiggia to cross. Suffered intense criticism for the error. Worked in admin at the Maracana after retiring as a player. It is said he was given the goalposts and burned them. Died in 2000.
Augusto Da Costa was also 29 year old, a defender and the captain. He briefly managed Guara-DF and then served in Rio's military police. Died in 2004.
Juvenal was a 26 year old central defender who took a lot of blame for the defeat and became a recluse after retiring in 1959. Lived in poverty, virtually unable to walk due to arthritis in his knees and hips until TV Globo launched a campaign to help him. He died in 2009.
Bigode was the defender who was meant to be marking Ghiggia and so took almost as much criticism as Barbosa. Had previously been awarded an apartment as "the most popular player in Rio de Janeiro" but was not allowed to live in it despite taking legal action. After retiring in 1955 he went into hiding like Juvenal. Died in 2003.
Jose Carlos Bauer was a 24 year old centre-half who went on to manage 14 clubs and discovered Eusebio recommending him to Benfica manager Bela Guttmann. Died in 2007.
Danila Alvin was a 29 year old centre-half who managed Bolivia to their only Copa America success in 1963. Died in 1996.
Zizinho, the 27 year old was voted the best player in the 1950 World Cup and rated by Pele as the best player he ever saw. Despite winning multiple trophies at club level he was only ever remembered for 1950. He took a job in local government after retiring. Died in 2002.
Jair was one of Brazil's three-man forward line who later became a manager. Bolsonaro was born on his birthday and named after him. He died in 2005.
Friaca was a 25 year old winger who scored Brazil's goal. He owned a shop in retirement. Died in 2009.
Ademir was a 27 year old forward and one of the best players in the world. Became a coach and also a commentator. Died in 1996.
Chico was a lightning quick left-winger never played for Brazil again. Worked as a taxi driver and chauffeur in retirement. Died in 1997.


Switzerland Squad:
Head coach: Franco Andreoli
Fw Charles Antenen
Fw Alfred Bickel
Mf Oliver Eggiman
Df Rudolf Gyger
Df Willy Kernen
Mf Roger Quinche
Fw Hans Segenthaler
Fw Jean Tamini
Fw Rene Bader
Df Roger Bocquet (c)
Fw Jacques Fatton
Mf Felice Soldini
Fw Gerhard Lusenti
Df Kurt Rey
Df Willi Steffen
Fw Walter Beerli
Gk Eugen Corrodi
Fw Hans-Peter Freidlander
Gk Adolphe Hug
Df Andre Neury
Fw Walter Schneiter
Gk Georges Stuber

Felice Soldini was with the squad but was ineligible to play.


Yugoslavia Squad:
Head Coach: Milorad Arsenijevic
Mf Aleksandar Atanackovic
Df Bozo Broketa
Df Ratko Colic
Df Ivica Horvat (c)
Fw Prvoslav Mihajlovic
Fw Tihomir Ognjanov
Df Branko Stankovic
Df Sinisa Zlatkovic
Gk Vladimir Beara
Fw Zejlko Cajkovski
Mf Predrag Dajic
Df Miodrag Jovanovic
Fw Rajko Mitic
Mf Bela Palfi
Fw Kosta Tomasevic
Fw Stjepan Bobek
Mf Zlatko Cajkovski
Df Vladimir Firm
Mf Ervin Katnic
Gk Srdan Mrkusic
Mf Ivo Radovnikovic
Fw Bernard Vukas


Mexico Squad:
Head coach: Octavio Vial
Fw Jose Luis Borbolla
Gk Raul Cordoba
Df Gregorio Gomez
Mf Francisco Hernandez
Gk Antonio Carbajal
Mf Samuel Cuburu
Mf Carlos Guevara
Df Alfonso Montemayor
Fw Horacio Casarin (c)
Mf Antonio Flores
Df Manuel Gutierrez
Fw Jose Naranjo
Fw Leonardo Navarro
Mf Mario Perez
Df Rodrgigo Ruiz
Df Felipe Zetter
Mf Mario Ochoa
Fw Max Prieto
Fw Carlos Septien
Mf Hevtor Ortiz
Df Jose Antonio Roca
Fw Jose Velazquez


Spain Squad:
Head coach: Guillermo Eizaguirre
Gk Juan Acuna
Df Vicente Asensi
Fw Agustin Gainza
Fw Rosenda Hernandez
Fw Jose Juncosa
Mf Nando
Mf Antonio Puchades
Fw Telmo Zarra
Df Gabriel Alonso
Fw Estanislaus Basora
Df Josep Gonzalvo
Fw Silvestre Igoa
Df Rafael Lesmes
Mf Jose Luis Panizo
Gk Antoni Ramallets
Df Francisco Antunez
Fw Cesar
Mf Maria Gonzalvo
Gk Ignacio Eizaguirre (c)
Mf Luis Molowny
Df Jose Parra
Mf Alfonso Silva


England Squad:
Head coach: Walter Winterbottom
Df John Aston
Mf Henry Cockburn
Df Bill Eckersley
Fw Wilf Mannion (Middlesbrough)
Fw Stan Mortensen (Blackpool)
Df Alf Ramsey (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mf Willie Watson
Mf Eddie Baily
Mf Jimmy Dickinson
Fw Tom Finney (Preston)
Fw Stanley Matthews (Blackpool)
Fw Jimmy Mullen
Df Laurie Scott
GK Bert Williams
Fw Roy Bentley (Chelsea)
Gk Ted Ditchburn
Mf Laurie Hughes
Fw Jackie Milburn (Newcastle United)
Mf Bill Nicholson (Tottenham Hotspur)
Df Jim Taylor
Df Billy Wright (c) (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

England team was fractured and was not a happy camp.
Wright was the Beckham of his day with a pop star wife.
Lloyds of London had insured the England team for $3m.
23 May 1950 the FA announced the England squad of 21 players.
Willie Watson was also a test cricketer, though he never played in the tournament.


Chile Squad:
Head coach: Arturo Bucciardi
Df Manuel Alvarez Jimenez
Mf Hernan Carvallo
Df Arturo Farias
Fw Raimundo Infante
Mf Miguel Busquets
Fw Atilio Cremaschi
Df Miguel Flores
Gk Sergio Livingstone
Mf Fernando Campos
Fw Guillermo Diaz
Fw Carlos Ibanez
Df Manuel Machuca
Fw Luis Mayanes
Gk Rene Quitral
Mf Carlos Rojas
Df Francisco Urroz
Fw Manuel Munoz
Fw Fernando Riera
Df Fernando Roldan
Fw Andres Prieto
Fw George Robledo
Mf Osvaldo Saez


United States Squad:
Head coach: William Jeffrey
Df Robert Annis
Mf Charlie Colombo
Fw Nicholas Di Orio
Df Harry Keough (c)
Fw Frank Moniz
Fw John Souza
Mf Walter Bahr
Df Geoff Coombes
Fw Joe Gaetjens
Df Joe Maca
Fw Gino Pariani
Fw Frank Wallace
Gk Frank Borghi
Fw Robert Craddock
Gk Gino Gardassanich
Mf Ed McIlvenny
Fw Ed Souza
Fw Adam Wolanin

Some of the US players had a struggle to keep their jobs while in Brazil: "I don't know of anybody that made a living off soccer back when I played. Everybody had a job. I had a leave of absence to go to Mexico, but the next year we were to go right before the school year and a few people had to go to bat for me to keep the school district from replacing me." - Walter Bahr, US international and gym teacher.
US players got $100 a week at the World Cup. Bahr was usually paid $50 with ASL Philadelphia Nationals and $46 teaching.
Not every player could get time off. Phillie's Ben McLaughlin had to pull out as he couldn't get time off to go.
"We had some pretty good players, but we didn't have a lot of practice together. They just kind of threw us together and we played a practice game and that was it." - Harry Keough.
"We had absolutely no training or preparation before we left to go down to Brazil. Fortunately. the players from the East knew each other well and the five players from St Louis knew each other pretty well. We hit it off pretty good. But the only game we really played together as a team was in New York." - Walter Bahr.
The NY game was the day before leaving against a travel select team of English players which the US lost 1-0. Three more players were then added to the squad - Joseph Maca, born in Belgium, Ed McIlvenny, a Scotsman, and Haitian Joe Gaetjens. Gaetjens was ASL top scorer in 1950.
They were able to spend a few days training before they faced Spain: "That was one of the few times before we played the big games that we got a few days beforehand to practice and get to know each other. Usually when we went on a trip like that, a lot of guys had jobs so we came shortly beforehand and we were out of shape, because we didn't play in the summer in the US." - Keough.
They were leading against Spain: "A win or a tie would have helped us advance, but that strategy wasn't part of soccer at the time. You didn't sit back and protect your goal. The best defence was a good offence. Even though we were a goal up with minutes to play we still went up and tried to score a second goal and cement victory." - Walter Bahr.
Belfast Telegraph called the US a "band of no hopers".
When the US team returned home the only people waiting for them were a couple of wives. Bahr's to take him to the summer camp they worked to earn more money. The other wife just wanted to scold her husband for returning late.
A few months after the tournament ended Gaetjens decided to capitalise on his fame and dropped out of university and went to the French league signing with Racing Club de Paris. He struggled to adapt and played just 4 times, scoring 2. Knee problems saw him offered to Troyes AC, a division below, but they said no. 1952-53 season Gaetjens played for lower league side Ales who would later produce Ribery and made 15 appearances scoring 2 goals.
Ed McIlvenny joined Man Utd.
Joseph Maca went to Belgian 3rd division side Racing White. He later said most of their players were better than the 1950 World Cup team's players.
Gaetjens returned to Haiti to become a spokesman for Palmolive and Colgate. Crowds met him at the airport and cars by the score escorted him home. He rejoined L'Etoile Haitienne aged 29. But he was injury-prone and would often get nose bleeds from exertion. 27 December 1953 played for Haiti v Mexico, a 1954 World Cup qualifier. He played poorly and got another nose bleed. It was to be his last competitive match.
1955 Gaetjens married his cousin Lilianne and had 3 children. Had a successful dry cleaning business and coached youth soccer. He was said to be very generous to young players from the slums, he would give them money so they could eat.
1957 Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier won presidential election. While Joe had no interest or involvement in politics, his family backed the opposition Louis Dejoie, who was a relation. After a failed coup attempt Papa Doc turned into a ruthless dictator and turned most of his wrath on Dejoie's supporters. Many supporters fled but the Gaetjens family were also well-connected with the Papa Doc camp and so felt safe to stay. Joe's oldest brother Gerard began to be harassed by the regime, but the family's influence kept him free. Then Papa Doc found out that Joe's two younger brothers, Jean-Pierre and Fred, from their Dominican Republic home, had been associated with an exiles group planning a coup.
7 July 1964 Papa Doc pronounced himself president for life and a friendly police officer advised the Gaetjens family to hide. All bar Joe did so but he had nothing to do with any of it so thought he would be fine. Four hours later that police officer came for Joe and he was taken to infamous police prison Fort Dimanche, held responsible for his family's actions and never seen again. Each midnight a prisoner's name would be called and they would be stood against the courtyard wall and executed. Most believe it was Joe's turn on 10th July 1964 and some of the Gaetjens believe that a notorious police chief, who was a close friend of Joe's, pulled the trigger.
"The only person who met me at the airport when we flew back was my wife. The papers had nothing in there. The Philadelphia paper, I still have a copy of it, it has a two-inch column. I don't think I did a single interview about the World Cup until 25 years later." - Walter Bahr.
Football was taken to the USA by Scottish textile workers who played along the banks of the Passaic River in Jersey.


Sweden Squad:
Head coach: George Raynor
Mf Sune Andersson
Df Gunnar Johansson
Df Arne Mansson
Fw Stellan Nilsson
Fw Ingvar Rydell
Mf Kjell Rosen
Fw Kurt Svensson
Mf Ollie Ahlund
Mf Ingvar Gard
Fw Egon Jonsson
Fw Bror Mellberg
Mf Knut Nordahl
Df Lennart Samuelsson
Fw Stig Sundqvist
Gk Tore Svensson
Fw Hasse Jeppson
Gk Torsten Lindberg
Df Erik Nilsson (c)
Fw Karl-Erik Palmer
Fw Lennart Skoglund
Gk Kalle Svensson
Fw Borje Tapper

The entire Swedish squad were amateurs.


Italy Squad:
Head coach: Ferruccio Novo
Fw Amedeo Amadei
Fw Giampiero Boniperti
Fw Emilio Caprile
Df Osvaldo Fattori
Fw Benito Lorenzi
Df Carlo Annovazzi
Fw Aldo Campatelli
Fw Riccardo Carapallese
Df Zeffiro Furiassi
Mf Augusto Magli
Df Ivano Blason
Fw Gino Cappello
Gk Giuseppe Casari
Df Attilio Giovannini
Mf Giacomo Mari
Gk Giuseppe Moro
Mf Carlo Parola
Mf Ormero Tognon
Fw Ermes Muccinelli
Mf Leandro Remondini
Fw Egisto Pandolfini
Gk Lucidio Sentimenti


Paraguay Squad:
Head coach: Manuel Fleitas Solich
Fw Enrique Avales
Fw Angel Berni
Fw Juan Canete
Df Casiano Cespedes
Mf Armando Gonzalez
Fw Cesar Lopez Fretes
Fw Dario Jara Saguier
Gk Marcelino Vargas
Fw Marcial Avales
Df Antonio Cabrera
Mf Castor Cantero
Df Manuel Gavilan
Mf Victoriana Leguizamon
Fw Hilario Osorio
Fw Francisco Sosa
Mf Melanio Baez
Fw Lorenzo Colonga
Gk Pablo Centurion
Df Alberto Gonzalez
Fw Atilio Lopez
Df Elioro Parades
Fw Leongino Unzaim


Uruguay Squad:
Head coach: Juan Lopez
Fw Julio Cesar Britos
Fw Alcides Ghiggia
Df William Martinez
Fw Ruben Moran
Fw Julio Perez
Mf Victor Rodriguez Andrade
Df Eusebio Tejera
Df Hector Vilches
Fw Juan Burgueno
Df Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Gk Roque Maspoli
Mf Washington Ortuno
Mf Rodolfo Pini
Fw Carlos Romero
Mf Obdulia Varela (c)
Df Schubert Gambetta
Df Matias Gonzalez
Fw Oscar Miguez
Gk Anibal Paz
Fw Luis Rijo
Fw Juan Alberto Schiaffino
Fw Ernesto Vidal

Final team:
Roque Maspoli was a 32 year old keeper who pulled off a series of saves in the final. Went on to have success as a coach, managing his country in 1987. He died in 2004.
Matias Gonzalez was a 25 year old full-back who became known as 'the Lion of the Maracana' and was given a state job when he retired. Died 1984.
Eusebio Tejera was a 28 year old defender who headed off to a lucrative contract in Colombia. Became Schubert Gambetta's brother-in-law when they married sisters. Worked on taxis after retirement. Died in 2002.
Schubert Gambetta was a 30 year old left-half. His style of play saw the Spanish word for 'to dribble' named after him - gambetear. Died in 1991.
Victor Andrade was a 23 year old who also played in the 1954 World Cup. Worked as an usher at Montevideo's Palace of Congress after retiring. Helped found basketball team 25 de Agosto. Died in 1985.
Obdulio Varela the 32 year old captain. Remonstrated with the referee to calm the crowd after Brazil scored then used it to rally the team. Played in 1954 World Cup. After retiring he managed Penarol briefly but spent most of his retirement in poverty and forgotten and died in 1996.
Alcides Ghiggia was a 23 year old right winger who scored the winning goal in the 79th minute. Spent 9 years in Serie A with AC Milan and Roma and also got 5 caps for Italy. Retired in 1968 and worked in Casino Montevideo preventing cheating. Occasionally gave driving lessons. Money problems caused him to sell his World Cup winner's medal but it was bought by a Brazilian-Uruguayan businessman who returned it to him. Died in 2015.
Julio Perez was a 24 year old inside forward who forced a great save from Barbosa. Later became a youth coach in Uruguay, Paraguay and Mexico. Died in 2002.
Omar Oscar Miguez was a 22 year old forward who also went to the 1954 World Cup. Died in 2006.
Juan Schaffino scored equaliser and also played in the 1954 World Cup. That earnt him a move to AC Milan for a world record £72,000 fee. Also won caps for Italy. Died in 2002.
Ruben Moran was a 19 year old and the youngest player in the final. Died in 1978 aged 47.


Bolivia Squad:
Head coach: Mario Pretto
Df Alberto Figueroa de Acha
Mf Duberty Araoz
Fw Victor Brown
Fw Roberto Capparelli
Fw Victor Celestino Alganaraz
Gk Vicente Arraya
Df Jose Bustamante
Mf Leonardo Ferrel
Mf Alberto Aparicio
Mf Juan Arricio
Mf Rene Cabrera
Fw Benedicto Godoy Veizaga
Df Antonio Greco
Gk Eduardo Gutierrez
Mf Humberto Saavedra
Mf Antonio Valencia
Fw Juan Guerra
Fw Benjamin Maldonado
Mf Eulogio Sandoval
Fw Benigno Gutierrez
Fw Mario Mena
Fw Victor Augustin Ugarte

Written by Tris Burke February 15 2024 10:44:21


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