Monday, June 29, 2015


According to legend, English newspapers, assuming that the score coming over the teletype was a misprint, reported a 10-1 victory for England. It was a measure of the magnitude of the upset that most people didn't really bat an eye at that lopsided result.

Sixty-five years ago today, the United States of America defeated England, 1-0, in the group stage at the 1950 World Cup. England were 3-1 favorites to win the cup, widely regarded as the world's best team. The U.S. team was made up entirely of amateurs: painters, teachers, mail carriers, and 500-1 longshots to take the title.

For the first 20 minutes of the match, the powerful English peppered U.S. keeper Frank Borghi, hitting the crossbar twice, forcing Borghi to make two saves, and recording six total shots on goal. While the U.S. settled down, England continued to pressure the American back line, nearly scoring on three consecutive breakaways.

But in the 37th minute, Walter Bahr launched a shot from 25 yards out, and Joe Gaetjens grazed the ball with a diving header attempt, changing its trajectory just enough to direct the ball past England keeper Bert Williams and into the net. The U.S. had an improbable 1-0 lead that they carried into the break.

Borghi kept up his stellar play in the second half. England thought they'd scored on a header from a free kick, but the referee ruled that the ball never crossed the line. Despite pressure throughout the second half, the Americans never yielded.

It's regarded by many soccer experts as the greatest upset in the history of the game at the national team level. Neither side advanced beyond the group stage, and the U.S. wouldn't even play in the World Cup again until 1990.

Walter Bahr went on to a long career as one of the legendary coaches in the American game. His sons Chris and Matt both played for the national team, and kicked in the NFL. Joe Gaetjens' story was more tragic, as he was killed in his native Haiti by Papa Doc Duvalier's Tonton Macoutes. Author Geoffrey Douglas' book about the match, The Game of Their Lives, tells the story of the 1950 U.S. team in depth.

Sixty five years later, this match still resonates in England. In the runup to the 2010 World Cup and the U.S.' group stage matchup with England, Jozy Altidore's Haitian heritage was a noteworthy part of match previews. And the fact that the Americans managed a draw in that match denied England 'revenge'.

Frustratin' Brits since 1776.


rob said...

bo ryan stepping down after this season. looks like g:tb will need a new second-favorite college hoops coach. accepting applications.

Clarence said...

There was time now to read blog comments! There was finally time!! It's not fair!!!

[For the young or uncultured, see the classic Twilight Zone episode starring Mickey Penguin as SoD Dave]

Dave said...

just put this comment on the old thread: bradley beach is my favorite north jersey beach town. just enough on the boardwalk, decent little town, and flat beaches with tide pools-- good for collecting shit and skim-boarding.

obama is a little off key there . ..

Dave said...

are you talking about the one about the bank employee who breaks his glasses?

zman said...

That's the one. Burgess Meredith.

Clarence said...

One of my favorites. Reminds me of you, Dave, the antisocial nerdy guy who wanted to read all the time. Other episodes I liked were To Serve Man (I won't give away the awesome ending) and Shatner with the monster on the airplane wing. Rod Serling was the man.

zman said...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

TR said...

Would've been a lot cooler if you waited four more years to post this, Rob. Just sayin'.

Mark said...

I love the old Twilight Zones. I used to watch that and the Alfred Hitchcock show with my parents growing up.