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.
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
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.