World Cup Final

Rio de Janeiro, 17 July 1950.

Attendance: 199, 854

Uruguay Maspoli, Gonzales, Tejera, Gambetta, Varela, Andrade, Ghiggia, Perez,
Miguez, Schiaffino and Moran.

Scorers: Schiaffino and Ghiggia.

Brazil Barbosa, Augusto, Juvenal, Bauer, Danilo, Bigode, Friaca, Zizinho,
Ademir, Jair and Chico.

Scorer: Friaca

Referee: George Reader (England).

Thus the hosts Brazil only had to draw in front of nearly two hundred thousand fans to win the Jules Rimet Trophy in the new Maracana stadium. Given they had crushed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1, the result seemed a forgone conclusion, hence a victory song was specially written for the presumed winners. Not for the first time in this tournament such presumption was to prove not merely inimical but fatal. Maspoli in goal for Uruguay played a blinder, the relentless barrage from the Brazilian forwards produced not one goal for the Home side for forty-five minutes. At least Brazil had not followed the England script in the England-USA match; furthermore, the half time score of nil-nil meant that Brazil were winning overall, Uruguay had to score. Three minutes into the second half the competition appeared to be over when Friaça put the Brazilians in front. Uruguay would have to score twice in just over forty minutes, something they had not done once in nearly fifty. Some commentators blame Brazil for not sitting on their lead and switching to defence; yet it appears harsh to this writer to condemn Brazil for playing to their strengths, their weakness was overconfidence. In 1805 Prussian Army officers had arrogantly sharpened their sabres on the steps to the French Embassy in Berlin, they were the army of Frederick the Great. On October 14 1806 this same army faced Napoleon at Jena and Davout at Auerstadt. The shock of the impossible defeats was such that subsequently whole Prussian battalions surrendered to troops of French cavalry. The Uruguayan goal, scored after sixty-five minutes play, drained the Brazilians, destroying the wellsprings of their confidence. The Uruguayans, previously largely confined to their own half, began to pour forwards. Yet it took a superb goal from Ghiggia, who had done much to create the equaliser, to slay the stricken Brazilians. Barbosa the Brazilian goalkeeper who sadly passed away in 2005 was blamed, unfairly, by many of his compatriots for this second goal. In fact it was a collective failure. However, one must salute the record of Uruguay, considering the World Cups as units, the score was: contested two, won two.

USA 1-0 England

England were expected to slaughter the workmanlike United States team. So confident was the team from the “land without music” that the thirty-five year old Stanley Matthews, whose sobriquet was “the Wizard of dribble”, was rested. In part due to Winterbottom’s (Walter Winterbottom was the manager of England, the first to be appointed) distrust of the allegedly selfish Matthews; for Matthews was famed for teasing defenders, inviting them to make a tackle, which more often than not left the opponent floundering on the ground as Matthews sped away, whereas more cautious souls would have passed the ball to a colleague. Playing on the right wing, Matthews provided an accurate supply of passes that would test and defeat defences in the top English division until 1965, when Matthews was fifty. In brief, Matthews was fun to watch, as well as being extremely fast over short distances.

Virtually the entire first half of the England-United States match was played in the American half, shot after shot rained down on the American goal, some hitting the bar, some glancing over. It seemed inevitable that there would be a goal, which indeed there was as Larry Gaetjens either headed the ball or it bounced off his head in the direction of Bert Williams, who was keeping goal for England! One nil to the United States after thirty-seven minutes, when many had thought that England would be three or four up at the least by this time. American defiance and a large slice of luck coupled together to produce the shock of the tournament, with what appeared to be a perfect legitimate goal from England disallowed. Nonetheless, England were not able to score even one goal in response. When the 0-1 result reached Fleet Street, many English newspapers corrected the obvious typo, reporting the result as a more plausible and palatable 10-1 to England! Indeed the United States were still to finish bottom of Pool B, yet their appearance had made a difference. A stunned England team played listlessly against Spain in their final match in Pool B, thus, even though photographic evidence was to prove that Jackie Milburn the famous Newcastle United striker had, contrary to the referee’s decision, scored a legitimate goal; there could not be much cause for complaint when England lost one-nil to unfancied Spain. Truly the first World Cup had been a humbling experience for the Homeland of football. Further ignominy was to be heaped upon England shortly after the World Cup was over, when, for the first time in the history of football, England failed to defeat continental European opposition when playing at home, Yugoslavia drew after being two goals down.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.