Monthly Archives: January 2017

1958 World Cup: Sweden

Following a major upset and political upheaval in Europe, arguably South America’s most famous team was finally ready to fulfill its destiny. Jogo bonito – the beautiful game – was about to come into its own. Two players would become household names. One was a Moroccan-born striker who played for France, and was only on the team due to injury. The other was from the suburbs of Brazil’s three largest cities, on his way to becoming arguably the greatest player in the history of world football.

(The 1958 FIFA World Cup poster. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

1958 FIFA World Cup 
June 8-29 

Host: Sweden 

Champion: Brazil 
Runner Up: Sweden 
Third Place: France 
Fourth Place: West Germany 

Leading scorer(s): Just Fontaine, France (13) 

After the Soviets had begun the invasion of Hungary, European teams were now free to exert more control. As the decades wore on, Europe and South America would continue their rivalry for continental football supremacy. Within two years, the UEFA European Championship (known for short as “the Euros”) would be founded. Several years before, they had also begun the European Cup, which is now known as the UEFA Champions League, the greatest European club competition in the world. Sweden would come back from failing to qualify to take their host nation all the way to the final.

The World Cup finally seemed to get it right – sixteen teams qualified, with every team in the group stage would get three games, with no extra time in the group stage for draws. It would stay this way for the next twenty years. If the second and third place teams were tied, it would lead to a playoff, although many felt it was too much too soon. So, controversially, FIFA resorted to a new measure called “goal average” to determine who went through. For the final time, there would be a group stage “playoff.” Teams received two points for a win and one point for a draw.

Sweden as host qualified automatically, as did West Germany who were defending champions. For the only time, all four home countries of the United Kingdom – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – qualified. Wales and Northern Ireland would debut this year, with Wales winning an intercontinental playoff with Israel to get in. Hungary put the invasions behind them to win the group over Bulgaria. They wouldn’t replicate the success of four years earlier, but they had a few good years in them. After finishing tied on points, a playoff was needed to decide whether the Soviet Union or Poland advanced. The Soviets won 2-0 to make the Cup for the first time. Yugoslavia also qualified. The last team in was France, who knocked out the Belgians despite struggling in the months leading up to it. Belgium needed a win against France in Brussels to advance, but were eliminated after a scoreless draw. During qualification, Thadée Cisowski seemed to be ready to break out for Les Bleus. But he never got there. Instead, Raymond Kopa would be forced to rely on a lesser-know teammate, a 24-year-old striker from Marrakech in what is now Morocco. His name was Just Fontaine. Injuries would force him out in his prime a few years later, but in 1958, Fontaine would have a World Cup for the ages.

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(In his only World Cup appearance, France’s Just Fontaine would score 13 times to lead all players. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

In South America, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay all qualified. Argentina’s team, “La Nuestra,” felt it finally had the talent ready to win the World Cup. And in the pre-Maradona years, it arguably was their best team they ever had. But Brazil had a player who would transcend everybody. He wasn’t quite eighteen years old yet, and had grown up in between the three major cities of Brazil – Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. His real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. But he’s known by only one name, only four letters long – Pelé.

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(Pelé became a household name in 1958. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

The final team advancing would be Mexico, who survived a final round pairing with Costa Rica to advance. Although Africa and Asia entered, they played in the same qualifying group at the time, and couldn’t get anybody through (as mentioned, Israel lost to Wales in a playoff for the last spot). One notable absence was Italy. Shockingly, Northern Ireland had beaten the group, leaving the Azzurri out in the cold. The final match was a shocking 2-1 upsets in Belfast by the hosts. This is the only time that Italy has failed to qualify for the World Cup (they didn’t enter in 1930). The field of sixteen was set.

The competition
Group 1 
In hindsight, it may have been the Group of Death for Argentina, in for the first time since 1934. Each of the last three times, they had withdrawn, and they were hungry. But in the opening game in Malmö, the West Germans showed that their championship was no fluke. Led by Helmut Rahn, who had scored the winner in the 1954 final, and Uwe Seeler, La Nuestra fell 3-1 in the opening match. Even worse, they were forced to borrow the jerseys from the local team because they didn’t bring a change of kits, so for one match, Argentina wore yellow. The plucky Northern Irish upset Czechoslovakia 1-0, behind a goal from Wilbur Cush (21′). Argentina managed some pride back by winning 3-1 over Northern Ireland, keeping their hopes alive. West Germany and Czechoslovakia drew 2-2 in Helsingborg. Every team was still mathematically alive.

Back in Malmö for the final group game on June 15, the Germans got a goal from Rahn (20′) and Seeler (78′). But Northern Ireland got two of their own from Peter McParland, both times giving them a shock lead. West Germany was forced to rally both times, and they held on for a 2-2 draw. West Germany had enough points to advance. Northern Ireland would be forced to play off after Czechoslovakia demolished Argentina 6-1. It was 3-0 at halftime and it never got any better. Argentina would be going home in last place in the group. Their fans were so disappointed that the players were booed and had objects thrown at them upon arriving home at the Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires.

(Czechoslovakia destroyed Argentina 6-1 on June 15, 1958, leaving the latter with one of their greatest World Cup disappointments. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

In the playoff, McParland scored twice, including once in extra time, to send Northern Ireland through to the quarterfinals. Two big teams were going home, and one small one was standing, having knocked off the giants.

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(Peter McParland scored five goals in the group stage to lead Northern Ireland to a shocking quarterfinal berth. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Mail.) 

Group 2 
This group set a record for most goals scored in group play by all four teams, which still stands today. The city of Norrköping was the host of the France-Paraguay match, and Fontaine got off to a fast start. Only in the lineup due to injuries, Fontaine scored a hat trick, after conceding the first goal to the visiting Paraguayans. France had hosted in 1938 but had fallen short. Their own fans expected little of them. But Fontaine, Raymond Kopa, and Roger Piantoni would lead France to their greatest finish up to that point. Even more exciting, one broadcaster was said to have shouted “Vive la France!” every time after they scored. He would have plenty of chances to do so, as France ran over Paraguay 7-3. Yugoslavia fought to a 1-1 draw with Scotland. In the next match, Yugoslavia upset France 3-2 despite two more goals from Fontaine. Todor Veselinovic had the winner two minutes from time, also his second of the game. Paraguay beat Scotland 3-2 as well to stay in it.

(Yugoslavia beat France 3-2 in an exciting Group 2 match. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Raymond Kopa got the scoring going for France (22′) in their final match against Scotland. Fontaine added one of his own (44′), and they survived a goal from Sammy Baird (58′) to win 2-1 and take top of the group. Yugoslavia took second after a 3-3 draw with Paraguay. A goal from Zdravko Rajkov (73′) broke Paraguayan hearts, and although Paraguay got one back, it was too late.

Group 3 
The hosts Sweden had a pretty easy group, drawn with Wales, Mexico, and a decimated Hungary. Agne Simonsson had a brace for the hosts against Mexico, taking the opener in Solna 3-0. Hungary got a goal from 1954 holdover Joszef Bozsik (5′) early, but Wales got one back to tie from John Charles (27′). The score ended 1-1. Mexico and Wales drew 1-1, earning Mexico their first point in World Cup competition. The hosts got two goals from Kurt Hamrin to beat Hungary 2-1. The hosts and Wales finished 0-0, while Hungary stayed alive with a 4-0 victory over Mexico. Under current rules, Hungary would move on instead of Wales. This year, though, it would come down to a playoff. Hungary took an early lead through Lajos Tichy (33′). But in the second half, Wales broke through. Fifty-five minutes in, Ivor Allchurch equalized, and twenty-one minutes later, Terry Medwin’s shot broke Hungarian hearts. Wales were through to the quarterfinal.

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(Terry Medwin scored the winner to send Wales to the quarterfinals. Photo courtesy of

Group 4 
Many considered this group the toughest – Brazil, USSR, England, and Austria. For all of his prowess, Pelé was left on the bench for the first two games. They felt he wasn’t ready yet. Still, it didn’t matter, as they won the first match 3-0 over Austria, with Altafini scoring twice, as did Nilton Santos. The Soviet Union and England drew 2-2. Brazil and England played to the first scoreless draw in history in the next game, while Austria were eliminated after losing to the Soviets 2-0. Austria managed a point in a 2-2 draw with England, who like Wales drew all three matches. Brazil beat USSR 2-0 behind two goals from Vavá. Pelé played, but he didn’t score. Still, his pace of play and his passing won rave reviews. A star had been born. In the playoff, the Soviets beat England 1-0 to advance. The quarterfinals were set.

Brazil would end Wales’ run 1-0 in the quarterfinals. In the sixty-sixth minute, Brazil’s Didi won a ball near the box. He headed it down to Pelé, who controlled the ball with his chest. He dribbled around the defenders, aiming for the corner. GOAL!! Pelé had his first World Cup goal, which proved to be the winner to send Brazil into the semifinals.

(Pelé scores his first World Cup goal against Wales. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Sadly, Northern Ireland’s magical run came to an end as well. France ran over them 4-0, with Fontaine’s brace complementing two other goals to send Les Bleus into the last four. Hosts Sweden won 2-0 over Soviet Union to advance. They didn’t have a great team per se, but they had a working-class team that got them through. Defending champions West Germany won over Yugoslavia 1-o to advance.

France’s run would come to an early end. Vavá scored only two minutes in. Fontaine got one back in the ninth minute. But it would be too little too late. In the Pelé-Fontaine matchup, it was the Brazilian who won. It was arguably his finest hour – a hat trick against the high-scoring French. Piantoni added one for France late, but Brazil advanced to the final with a 5-2 victory.

(Pelé had a hat trick in the semifinals against France. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Hosts Sweden would also advance after beating West Germany. The defending champions took the early lead through Hans Schäfer (24′). But Sweden tied it (32′) and it was 1-1 at halftime. With less than ten minutes remaining, the hosts broke though. 37-year-old Gunnar Gren was the one to put Sweden in the lead (81′), and Kurt Hamrin added a third (88′) with time running down. As working class as they were, Sweden had made the final.

Third place game
Just like Pelé had done to them the previous game, Fontaine would run all over the Germans. But he did Pelé one better – he scored four goals against the defending champions. Kopa added one of his own, and France took deserved third place honors, winning 6-3. It was Fontaine’s finest hour – and his last moment of glory. Injuries would force him out before the age of 30.

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(In the third place game, Just Fontaine had the match of his life, scoring four times against the defending champion West Germany. Photo courtesy of ESPN FC.) 

Since both teams traditionally wore yellow, Brazil went with their lesser-used blue kit. They even had to sew the patches onto the chest before the game. Sweden took the lead early (4′), when Nils Liedholm put them up 1-0. But that year, Brazil wouldn’t be denied their destiny. Two first-half goals from Vavá (9′ and 32′) gave Brazil a 2-1 lead at halftime. Then Pelé came on even stronger. He made it 3-1 (55′) and added a second (90′) sandwiched around another from Mario Zagallo. Sweden could only come back with one goal of their own. In the end, the score was 5-2. Brazil had its first championship. And Pelé had been crowned king of the world, making sure his name was known.

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(Pelé in action in the final against Sweden. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Highlights of the 1958 final. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(The victorious Brazil squad of 1958. Photo courtesy of 

Fun Facts 
Pelé was the youngest goalscorer ever at a World Cup until 1982 when Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland beat his record in the group stage. He remains the youngest to score in the final.

Mario Zagallo became the first of two people (West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer is the other) to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach. He won in 1958 and 1962 as a player, and coached them to the 1970 title (he was also an assistant on the 1994 World Cup-winning team and coached them to runner-up position in 1998).

In 2002, the Swedish press created a mockumentary called Conspiracy 58 where they argued the whole Cup was faked by the CIA and FIFA. Although it was a parody, many took the film seriously, including several notable publications like FourFourTwo magazine.

So unprepared was Just Fontaine to play in the ’58 Cup that he was forced to borrow a teammates shoes once they got to Sweden. He credits the shoes for his prowess that year.

This is the only time that Northern Ireland and Wales have made the quarterfinals. As of this writing, Wales has not featured in the World Cup since (with several close calls).

The first match between Wales-Hungary (a 1-1 draw) was the only match played in the provincial town of Sandviken. It became the northern-most game in the history of the World Cup.

Final Thoughts 
The two stars of the World Cup in 1958 would have profoundly different careers. By 1963, Fontaine was out of the game due to knee injuries. As glorious as his Cup was, he never got another one. Pelé would go on to score over 1,000 goals in his career, which is almost unheard of. If the outcome had been different that day, would Fontaine be the household name? Although Fontaine made the FIFA 125 list of greatest players, you wonder how much better he’d be if he had been able to stay healthy.

References and Sources 
Getty Images
Birmingham Mail. 
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments
(BBC 3 documentary)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)


Further analysis – “The Good Eleven”

Here are some other stats of all eleven baseball games I’ve ever seen. The idea comes from writer/St. Louis Cardinals fan Will Leitch and his book Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball.  All information is accurate as of January 21, 2017. For further reference, please refer to my other post “The good eleven” for more information.

1. Highest scoring game: 21 runs, twice (Chicago Cubs 11, Minnesota Twins 10 – Game #5; Texas Rangers 12, Houston Astros 9 – Game #6)
2. Lowest scoring game: 4 runs (St. Louis Cardinals 3, Chicago Cubs 1 – Game #2)
3. Largest margin of victory: 11 runs (Boston Red Sox 13, Minnesota Twins 2 – Game #11)
4. Team seen the most times: Cincinnati Reds (5 times, 1 win)
5. Best record from any teams: St. Louis Cardinals (3-0)
6. Most home runs by one team: 5 (Boston Red Sox, Game #10 – Red Sox 11, Giants 7)
7. Most home runs by both teams: 7, twice (Chicago Cubs 11, Minnesota Twins 10 – Game # 5; Boston Red Sox 11, San Francisco Giants 7 – Game #10)
8. Highest profile pitcher: Fernando Valenzuela, St. Louis Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals 12, Cincinnati Reds 6) – he got a no-decision
9. Manager most frequently seen: Dusty Baker (4 times, 1-3, with three different teams)
10. Most home runs by one player, game: Hanley Ramirez, 3 (Boston vs. San Francisco, Game #10)
11. Most runs scored by one team, game: Boston Red Sox , 13 (Game #11 vs Minnesota)
12. Fewest runs scored by one team, game: 3 tied with 1 run (Chicago Cubs, Game #2 vs. St. Louis; Cincinnati Reds, Game #7 vs. Pittsburgh; Cincinnati Reds Game #9 vs. St. Louis)
13. Most runs scored by losing team: Minnesota Twins, 10 (Game #5 vs. Chicago Cubs)
14. Fewest runs scored by winning team: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 (Game #2 vs. Chicago Cubs); Cincinnati Reds, 3 (Game #8 vs. Chicago Cubs)
15. Number of extra inning games: 1 (San Francisco Giants 6, Cincinnati Reds 5, Game #1)
16. Favorite moment: David Ortiz hitting a homer into the right field bullpen (Game #11, Boston vs. Minnesota)
17. Favorite Park: Fenway Park, Boston
18. Least favorite park: Cinergy Field, Cincinnati (saw it twice, and the second one was being torn down by the construction crews, and on my 15th birthday, too)

2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying updates: January 2017

With the FIFA World Cup in Russia now less than a year and a half away, here is what we know as of January 2017.

UEFA (Europe) 

Group A: France
Group B: Switzerland
Group C: Germany
Group D: Republic of Ireland
Group E: Poland
Group F: England
Group G: Spain
Group H: Belgium
Group I: Croatia

Second-place finisher excluded

Qualifying for playoff (in order of points) 
Northern Ireland

AFC (Asia) 
Group A 
1. Iran
2. South Korea

Group B
1. Saudi Arabia
2. Japan

Playoff for fifth place 
Uzbekistan (A) vs. Australia (B)

CAF (Africa) 
Group A: Democratic Republic of Congo
Group B: Nigeria
Group C: Cote d’Ivoire
Group D: Burkina Faso
Group E: Egypt

CONCACAF (North America) 
1. Costa Rica
2. Mexico
3. Panama

4. Honduras

CONMEBOL (South America)
1. Brazil
2. Uruguay
3. Ecuador
4. Chile

5. Argentina

OFC (Oceania) 
Group A 
New Zealand

Group B

Honduras vs. AFC 5th place
OFC winner vs. Argentina

1954 FIFA World Cup: Switzerland

In a year of monumental world events (school desegregation in America, the perceived threat of Communism in the Western Hemisphere), the World Cup was asked to deliver itself. And boy, did it. Formatting was a little different, a one-time format (more on that later). But for fans of offense, this was the golden age of the World Cup. It also signified a changing of the guard, both on the pitch and in the history of twentieth century Europe. In one last show of tragic beauty, the winners were overshadowed by the team they beat, arguably the best team in World Cup history who didn’t win, beaten in a match known today as the “Miracle of Bern.” Within two years, the team would fall apart as geopolitics threatened to mar the game.

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(The 1954 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of

1954 FIFA World Cup 
June 16-July 4 

Host: Switzerland 

Champion: West Germany 
Runner Up: Hungary 
Third Place: Austria 
Fourth Place: Uruguay 

Leading scorer(s): Sándor Kocsis, Hungary (11)

The World Cup had come back from the war, and its backers were eager to continue its original mission. Whether that would ever be fulfilled is still debated to this day, but some of the most beautiful moments on the pitch have occurred in the World Cup. On the same day in 1946 that Brazil was announced as host for 1950, it would be Switzerland’s turn in 1954.

Qualification and preparation 
For the first and only time, it would be a different system; two teams in each group would be seeded, and two teams would be unseeded. The two seeded teams would play against the unseeded teams, but not against each other. Also, for the only time, extra time was introduced in the group stage, usually only reserved for the knockout stages. If the match was drawn, there would be thirty minutes of extra time. It would be a draw if the score was still tied (Belgium would later earn its first World Cup point this way). Reverting to the system that stayed in place until 1994, two points were awarded for a win and one point for a draw.

Welcomed back four years later, West Germany won its group easily, winning three and drawing one. Surprisingly, Belgium upset defending bronze medalists Sweden, winning the group. The clincher came with a 2-0 win in Brussels on October 8, 1953. Henri “Rik” Coppens, arguably the team’s best player, scored the first goal (23′) and Victor Mees (49′) added the goal to clinch it.

Rik Coppens.jpg
(Rik Coppens’ opening goal in qualifying helped the Red Devils clinch a spot in the ’54 Cup. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Also missing the Cup were 1950 semifinalists Spain, under the most controversial of circumstances. In a three-match head-to-head battle with Turkey, both teams ended up with the same number of points. The teams would draw lots, and Spain got the figurative short straw (although they finished ahead on goal differential, it wouldn’t be used as a tiebreaker until 1970). Turkey would be in for the first time, joining England, Scotland, France, and Austria. While not quite as good as the Wunderteam twenty years earlier, Austria would come back strong. Also in from Europe were Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and arguably one of the finest teams in the World Cup, the “Magical Magyars” of Hungary. It was clear they’d be a force to be reckoned with after coming into London’s Wembley Stadium for a friendly on November 25, 1953, known as the “Match of the Century.”

Coming into said match, England had lost only once on home soil, in 1949 against Ireland. Throughout the years, England would gain a reputation for undeservedly flaunting its supposed technical superiority on the pitch, and this match was another example of it. Many thought that the Hungarians, playing behind the shadow of the Iron Curtain, had no chance. It would be embarrassing – for England. In one of the greatest exhibitions ever seen, Hungary, who had not been beaten since 1950, wound up beating England 6-3. But it wasn’t just that Hungary won – they embarrassed England in the process. They revolutionized the game with a 2-3-3-2 formation, while England stuck to its 3-2-2-3 (also called “WM” because of its shape). Five key players organized the “Golden Team” of Hungary. József Bozsik was tremendous in one of the earliest examples of the deep-lying midfielder; their alternating man was Nandor Hidegkuti. Providing width on one of the wings was Zoltán Czibor. But the two best players lay up top. Sándor Kocsis was a master on the ball, and was known to have an amazing first touch. But there was one man who anchored it all, the linchpin, the one who made them go: Ferenc Puskás. He was the first superstar at the World Cup, before Pele, before Maradona, before Cristiano Ronaldo, before Messi.

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(Ferenc Puskás was widely seen as the superstar player of the Hungarian team, in a team full of great players. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

He and Kocsis would cause the English fits in that game, although it was Hidegkuti who scored a hat trick, including a goal in the first minute. And his final goal was a thing of beauty, following frequent switching of positions and ten perfect passes in a row.

(Hungary put on a show in Wembley in November 1953. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

It was clear that England had no idea what to do with their opposition – let them run and close off the middle, or pursue and leave spaces open? Whatever tactics were chosen didn’t work. Because of the deception of Hidegkuti at his position, England defender Harry Johnston was constantly chasing him again and again, leaving other parts vulnerable. For all the talk of “Total Football” by the Dutch twenty years later, many credit the so-called “Golden Team” of 1953 with inventing and perfecting it. Six England players – including Johnston and future manager Alf Ramsey and 1950 hero Stan Mortensen – never represented the Three Lions again.

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(Hungary’s “Golden Team” of 1953. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

In other continents, Mexico finished ahead of the United States and Haiti to qualify in North America, along with Brazil. Champion Uruguay qualified automatically. And in a two-match competition in Asia, South Korea won 5-1 against Japan in Tokyo. After a 2-2 draw, South Korea was in for the first time.

The seeded teams were: Austria, Brazil, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Turkey, and Uruguay, with Turkey taking Spain’s allocated spot to eliminate any confusion.

The competition
Group 1 
While probably not of the same caliber as the 1950 team, Brazil got off to a fast start, winning 5-0 against Mexico in Geneva, with four separate players scoring. Yugoslavia upset France 1-0 with a Milos Milutinovic goal (15′) providing the difference. Brazil and Yugoslavia would tie 1-1 in their match, before France edged out Mexico 3-2 in their other match, with Raymond Kopa’s penalty (88′) the difference. Although eliminated early, Kopa would have a great World Cup in 1958. Brazil would draw lots to win the group ahead of Yugoslavia, who both advanced to the quarterfinal.

Group 2 
Whether it was a case of Hungary being utterly dominant, or newcomers South Korea being totally out of their league, or perhaps a combination of both, the pre-tournament favorites started off with a bang, winning 9-0. Ferenc Puskás scored twice, as did Peter Palotas, but Sándor Kocsis did them both one better – he had a hat trick, two of them coming in the first half. Turkey started off well against West Germany, scoring in the second minute through Suat Mamat. But the Germans came back to tie the score in the fourteenth minute, and it was soon clear that they were better, winning 4-1 with three second half goals.

Suat scored twice against South Korea, who lost the other game 7-0. Teammate Burhan Sargun had a hat trick, and Turkey kept themselves alive. They would need that extra game, as the Hungary-West Germany game would show.

Things started off immensely well for the Hungarians. After 21 minutes, it was 3-0. While West Germany got one back through Alfred Pfaff (25′), Hungary would win in a runaway, 8-3. Hungary began to feel their dominance. But as it turned out, German manager Sepp Herberger had a plan. He fielded a lineup of largely second-string players, not just to lull Hungary into a false sense of security but also to avoid many of the bigger teams like Uruguay and Brazil. Another advantage for West Germany was that on a hard tackle, Puskás would suffer an ankle injury. It wouldn’t sideline him, but he wouldn’t be at full strength either.

(Hungary ran over West Germany 8-3 in the group stage. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

But to make the quarterfinal, they’d have to play another playoff with Turkey first. As it turned out, Herberger’s plan paid off brilliantly, as they won the playoff 7-2. Max Morlock had a hat trick, Hans Schäfer scored twice, and they got one each from brothers Ottmar and Fritz Walter, the latter of whom was team captain. They would make the quarterfinals, and have an easier draw along the way.

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(Fritz Walter was the captain of the 1954 West Germany team. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Group 3 
The defending champion Uruguayans looked to show no signs of slowing down. Still, it took two goals in the final twenty minutes to defeat Czechoslovakia 2-0. They still had many of their great players, like Oscar Miguez and Juan Schiaffino, both of whom scored. Austria beat Scotland 1-0 on a goal (33′) by Erich Probst. In the other game, Uruguay ran over Scotland, 7-0, with Carlos Borges leading the way with a hat trick, and Miguez and Julio Abbadie scoring twice each. In the other match, Austria advanced with a 5-0 win over Czechoslovakia to make the quarterfinals, after Probst had a hat trick, and within the first 24 minutes, no less. Drawing lots, Uruguay took first in the group.

Group 4
Hosts Switzerland opened with a semi-upset of Italy 2-1, using a 78th minute goal from Josef Hügi to push them through. England and Belgium faced off, and the Rode Duivels earned their first point. Their other star, Leopold “Pol” Anoul, got them on the board first (5′). England took a 2-1 halftime behind goals from Ivor Broadis and Nat Lofthouse. Things looked good for England in the second half, as a second goal from Broadis made it 3-1. But the Belgians fought back – they got a goal from Rik Coppens and a second from Anoul within a four-minute span to make it 3-3. In extra time, it looked like England would squeeze the points away, as Lofthouse (91′) got his second. But only three minutes later, Belgium was able to get an equalizer – an own goal from defender Jimmy Dickinson. Neither team scored again and the match finished 4-4. Belgium had their first point in World Cup history.

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(Portsmouth FC’s Jimmy Dickinson’s own goal gave the Belgians one point in Group 4. Photo courtesy of 

(Highlights from the England-Belgium match. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Sadly for Belgium, Italy ran over them in the next game 4-1. Anoul scored another goal (81′) to salvage some pride, but it was too little, too late. Still, the Belgians had their first point. England beat Switzerland 2-0 to take the group. It would be a playoff between Switzerland and Italy for the final spot. The hosts had no need to worry, with a pair of goals from Hügi leading them to a 4-1 triumph. The two-time champion Italians were going home.

Not only would border rivals Austria and Switzerland meet in this round, it would be a classic match. Translated in German as Hitzeschlacht von Lausanne (The Heat Battle of Lausanne, loosely), temperatures approached 104°F, or 40°C. Switzerland started out of the gate hot, taking a 3-0 lead in a four minute time frame. Robert Ballaman (16′) got it started, and then Hügi scored twice in three minutes (17′ and 19′) to put Switzerland in the driver’s seat, or so they thought. Surely, the hosts would hold it, right? Wrong! Three goals in three minutes helped Austria tie the score, and they scored two more in the first half, five times in a span of ten minutes. At halftime, it was 5-4 Austria, after Ballaman (39′) got one back for the Swiss. It could have been more, but Austrian forward Alfred Körner missed a penalty.  In the second half, Austria’s Theodor Wagner completed a hat trick (53′) to make it 6-4. Five minutes later, Josef Hügi had done the same thing for the Swiss. It was 6-5 Austria. Could the Swiss rally? Alas, it was not to be, and 76 minutes in, Erich Probst scored an insurance goal to make it 7-5 Austria, the final score at the whistle. It was the highest scoring game in World Cup history, a record that still stands to this day. Each team had a player with a hat trick. Such a game would be almost impossible by today’s standards.

(In the highest scoring match in World Cup history, Austria defeated neighbor Switzerland 7-5 in the quarterfinal. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

England’s run came to an expected end, when the defending champion Uruguayans beat them 4-2. Most of the players were left over from the 1950 team, and England wasn’t quite ready. West Germany won 2-0 over Yugoslavia, thanks to a ninth minute own goal and another one (85′) by Helmut Rahn.

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(Helmut Rahn scored a goal in the quarters to send West Germany through. Photo courtesy of

The last quarterfinal match between Hungary and Brazil wasn’t a classic, but still memorable. It took place at Wankdorf (yes, that is the actual name) Stadium in Bern. It would be known for negative fouling, and had three players sent off, and was played in a rainstorm to boot, leaving the field soaked. It was 2-1 at halftime, before Mihaly Lantos scored a penalty to make it 3-1. This led to a swarm of Brazilian journalists against English referee Arthur Ellis. After Brazil made it 3-2, fights broke out between Jozsef Boszik and Nilton Santos, who were both sent off. Kocsis scored to make it 4-2, the final score. After another Brazilian player was sent off, the match ended in Hungary’s favor. But the fighting continued off the pitch, as Brazilian players stormed into the Hungarian locker room. FIFA did nothing, leaving discipline to each country. It became known as the “Battle of Bern.”

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(Brazilian players are held back in protest during the “Battle of Bern” against Hungary. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.) 

Sixteen years after playing together during the Anschluss, the Germans and Austrians met in the semifinals. Whatever political anger was left over was seemed irrelevant, as West Germany ran riot over their neighbors, 6-1. The Walter brothers, Fritz and Ottmar, each had two goals, with both of Fritz’s coming from the penalty spot, ten minutes apart.

The other semifinal matched the favorite against the defending champions. Coming into the semifinals, Uruguay had yet to lose in the World Cup. Things looked horrible for them at first, when Zoltán Czibor scored (13′) to make it 1-0 Hungary. Less than a minute after halftime, Nandor Hidegkuti made it 2-0. Things looked glum for La Celeste. But they got two clutch goals to level it up, both coming from little-known Juan Hohberg. Just like that, it was a game again.

But it would prove to be too little, too late. The match headed into extra time, and two goals by Sándor Kocsis broke Uruguay’s hearts. Once seen as the dominant team in football, the Uruguayans would be overtaken by other nations. They’d never have as spectacular of a run again. And the tournament favorites rolled into the finals.

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(Two goals from Kocsis put Hungary into the 1954 final. Photo courtesy of

Third place game
Austria would emerge victorious over Uruguay in the third place game. Each team had scored by the 22nd minute, and it was 1-1 at halftime. Austria finally broke through in the second half, thanks to a rare Uruguayan mistake – an own goal by Luis Cruz (59′). One minute from time, Ernst Ocwirk added the insurance goal to give the Austrians the third place title, their best finish to date.

Hungary was expected to dominate the final. And the final was arguably the first legendary one. But West Germany had two advantages – Ferenc Puskás hadn’t fully recovered from his injury yet, and the game would be played in heavy rain, which was dubbed “Fritz Walter weather” by the Germans. It was said that weather was one of the few things that could slow Hungary down, as they tended to struggle with the puddles and mud that would form on the field. As a result, West Germany’s secret weapon wasn’t even a player – it was shoe manufacturer Adi Dassler. Many know him as the namesake for his famous company, Adidas. Dassler introduced the Germans to special shoes, with longer studs on the cleats, which could be removed at any time.

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(Adi Dassler would help the Germans in the final – he invented a special type of shoe to help them. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Played at Wankdorf in Bern, things didn’t start well for West Germany. Off of a Boszik pass, Kocsis took a shot in the sixth minute. Goalkeeper Toni Turek made the save, but the ball cleared back out to Puskás. He fired the rebound. Goal! Just like that, Hungary led 1-0.

Things would get better for the Hungarians. Just two minutes later, Turek and defender Werner Kohlmeyer had a misunderstanding. The ball fell to Czibor, who fired….and it was 2-0 after only eight minutes. Hungary was clearly in the driver’s seat. But soon, they fell apart.

Somehow, the Hungarians tried to sit on their lead. After only ten minutes, West Germany got one back through Max Morlock. And eight minutes after that, Helmut Rahn made it 2-2. In just ten minutes, Hungary’s seemingly insurmountable lead had evaporated. Hungary had several more chances in the first half, with both Kocsis and Hidegkuti hitting the post. At halftime, it would be 2-2. Many Hungary supporters argue that West Germany would use its advantage to win the title. Not only did they switch cleats, but many claim that the trainers fed them vitamin C supplements borrowed from the Soviets in the locker room.

Hungary managed to keep the pressure on during the second half. Turek made save after save, and his defenders cleared the ball off the line several times. West Germany had a few chances of their own, but Hungary keeper Gyula Grosics was up to the task. The score remained tied.

Time began to win down, heading into the 84th minute. Hans Schäfer and Czibor both went for the ball, and Schäfer won it, giving the ball to Helmut Rahn. He faked a pass to Ottmar Walter, who sprinted up into the center. The Hungary defense took the bait, and Rahn ran around the defense. He fired a low shot. Goal, West Germany!! Just like that, it was 3-2 and West Germany was six minutes away from a shocking title.

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(Helmut Rahn scored the goal that won the final for West Germany. Photo courtesy of Young Journalist Academy.)

Hungary attempted to fight back. Off of the kickoff, they worked the ball into the West German box. Puskás drove the ball low. It looked like an equalizer for Hungary. Originally, referee William Ling pointed to the spot to kick the ball back off. But Sandy Griffiths of Wales, one of two assistant referees, pulled the flag up. Offside was the call. Was Hungary going to lose on a controversial call? Ling and Griffiths consulted for a minute, although it must have felt like an eternity. Ling made the call….no goal. Hungarian players couldn’t believe it. Many still can’t to this day. Video footage remains inconclusive, although substitute Alfred Pfaff claims it was a blown call.

(Puskás has a supposed equalizer ruled out for offside. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Hungary desperately needed to score. But that chance never came. The Germans threw their lines forward. As hard as Hungary tried, their opponents’ defense didn’t break. The whistle sounded. The Golden Team had been defeated, in arguably the greatest upset in World Cup history, at least in the final match. Even to this day, it’s known as “The Miracle of Bern.” For West Germany, who had a stagnant economy, and a lot of lingering anger directed towards them following the war, it gave them a newfound pride. They would turn into one of Europe’s greatest success stories during the Cold War. On the other hand, things were about to rear their ugly head in Hungary. One wonders what would have happened had Hungary won the final.

(Highlights of the 1954 FIFA World Cup Final. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Fans carry captain West German Fritz Walter and manager Sepp Herberger off the field in triumph. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

Fun Facts 
Fritz Walter was 34, past his prime for a footballer, during this World Cup. He had survived a Soviet prison camp during World War II. On the day before he was to be sent to the gulag, a high-ranking military official recognized him and the next day, Walter’s name was off the list of deportees.

1954 celebrated FIFA’s fiftieth anniversary.

Juan Hohberg collapsed in shock after scoring his second goal in the semifinals against Hungary. He was revived soon after, and scored Uruguay’s only goal in the third place loss to Austria.

Shortly before the World Cup, Hungary and England played a rematch of the “Match of the Century” at Nepstadion in Budapest. Hungary won the rematch 7-1, England’s worst loss in a competitive match. It proved that the first game was not a fluke. It was one of the first examples of England’s antiquated tactics betraying them.

After the Soviets took over Hungary, several key players, including Czibor, Kocsis, and Puskás all defected to Western Europe. For Puskás, he later gave up his Hungarian citizenship and played in 1962 for Spain; he also joined Real Madrid and won the European Cup (the predecessor to the UEFA Champions League) three times.

This was Belgium’s final appearance until 1970, and South Korea’s final appearance until 1986. Turkey wouldn’t make it back until 2002.

Hosts Switzerland have not made the quarterfinals since this tournament. They would make the round of 16 in 2006 and 2014.

Uruguay suffered their first loss in World Cup play against Hungary. They have never won the Cup – or even made the final – since, and have only made the semifinals twice since 1954 (1970 and 2010). They would fail to qualify in 1958, held in Sweden.

Scotland came into the World Cup thinking that Switzerland had a strictly alpine climate. Coming in with heavy coats, hats, and gloves, they soon realized they made a mistake, playing in a scorching Basel heat on June 19 against Uruguay (losing 7-0).

This World Cup set several records. Despite losing, Hungary set a record by scoring 27 goals in only five games, including 17 in the group stage. West Germany scored 25, the highest for a champion, and the record for highest average per game was set (5.38). Additionally, the Austria-Switzerland quarterfinal (7-5 Austria) is the highest scoring World Cup match ever, and Hungary’s 9-0 margin of victory over South Korea set a record that has only been tied twice.

West Germany didn’t have the Bundesliga at the time, and as a result, are the only team to win with amateur players.

Final Thoughts 
In late October 1956, Hungary’s citizens rebelled against the Soviet-controlled government. The Soviets beat down the revolution, leading over 200,000 Hungarian citizens to flee. Many sought asylum in Western Europe. The national team never recovered. Two years later, the Golden Team was no more. Hungary made their last appearance in 1986, never getting to the quarterfinals after 1962. One goal – and one disallowed one – changed not just the World Cup, but the history of European politics, forever.

References and Sources 
Getty Images
Young Journalist Academy 
Daily Mail 
The Guardian 
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments
(BBC 3 documentary)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)

Food Journeys of a Lifetime: My list

I think this is the last one on the National Geographic list, but here we go.

The book is pretty self-explanatory:
Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe.

My list
Specialties and Ingredients 
1. Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate – Brussels, Belgium
2. Best Baguette in Paris – Paris, France

Outstanding Markets 

1. Confiserie Temmerman – Ghent, Belgium
2. London’s Food Halls – London, England

Seasonal Delights 

1. Patrenella’s – Houston, TX (Italian cuisine)

In the Kitchen 

Favorite Street Foods
1. New York’s Sidewalk Chefs – New York City
2. French Fries in Ghent – Ghent, Belgium

Great Food Towns 
1. Indianapolis International Airport – Indianapolis, IN
2. Tex-Mex in San Antonio – San Antonio, TX
3. London’s Restaurants – London, England

Ultimate Luxuries 

1. Chicago Style – Chicago, IL
2. Belgium Taste in the Sky – Brussels, Belgium

The Best Wine, Beer, and More 

1. Alsace Valley Wine Tour – Alsace, France

Just Desserts
1. Manhattan, New York City
2. Paris, France
3. Chocolate in Brussels – Brussels, Belgium

1. Paris Pastry Hunt – Paris, France

10 out of 500 (2%)

1950 FIFA World Cup: Brazil

Despite the second world war, football didn’t quite stop completely – many club teams competed independently when they could. Plans for the 1942 and 1946 World Cups were forced to be cancelled, as many felt the World Cup didn’t matter, while others didn’t have the infrastructure to host it. Finally, in 1950, the top competition returned. While there was no official “final,” and many of the kinks were still worked out, in the end, South America’s first dynasty stood atop once again for one final glorious time, while the host country (and one notorious player) was left in tears.

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(The 1950 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

1950 FIFA World Cup 
June 24-July 16 

Host: Brazil 

Champion: Uruguay 
Runner Up: Brazil 
Third Place: Sweden 
Fourth Place: Spain 

Leading scorer(s): Ademir, Brazil (8) 

While widely acknowledging it was difficult, FIFA was desperate to get the World Cup back again, if for no other reason than to bring optimism back to the people of the world again. Prior to the war, Brazil was officially bidding for hosting duties in 1942. It was cancelled, as was the 1946 tournament. Many felt that the tournament would never be held again. But now Brazil put together a winning bid in 1950, one of the few countries not affected by major damage in the war. They insisted it be held in 1950, and FIFA accepted their proposal. It’s been held every four years ever since.

Qualification and preparation 
Still, a question remained: who was going to participate? As punishment for World War II, Germany and Japan were banned from competing by FIFA. Japan was focused more on baseball anyway, so they didn’t think of it as much; but for Germany, now divided in two (East and West Germany), it meant more. And in protest, all the countries in Eastern Europe boycotted the tournament. Italy was scheduled to qualify as defending champions anyway, but it wasn’t a guarantee that they would participate. On May 4 of the previous year, an airplane carrying the club team Torino FC crashed into the basilica of the Superga church in Turin; all 27 members of the team – players, coaches, writers – were killed, as were four other people. The team had been named “Grande Torino” and was one of the best teams of the 1940s in Serie A in Italy, winning five in the decade and they had just won their fourth league title in a row. Since the crash, they’ve won the league only once, in 1975-76. Italy was finally persuaded to participate, but even as aviation was becoming more advanced, they decided to take a ship there instead. Along the way, the team bickered and splintered apart. It would come back to haunt them, in more ways than one.

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(Wreckage of the plane that crashed into the Superga church in Turin in May 1949, killing all associated members of Torino FC. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Brazil certainly helped its own cause by building a luxurious new stadium, Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. It is the largest stadium in any sport in the world (with a current capacity of over 78,000, although it was as high as 200,000 in those days). Other host cities would include São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, and Recife.

Finally, the country that invented football was talked into it. After winning the 1949-50 British Home Championship, England decided to participate, led by star player Stan Mortensen. He was the first player to score for England in an official Cup qualifier. England came in with a lot of hubris, confident that they could win the Cup merely by showing up. They arrived only three days before the tournament started, leaving them less time for practice, and offered to stay in the major tourist hubs (like Copacabana) in Rio.

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(Stan Mortensen was arguably England’s superstar in the lead-up to the 1950 Cup. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

There was room for two teams from the U.K. in the Cup, so Scotland would also have qualified. But even after qualifying, they withdrew. So did several other high profile teams, including Belgium, Austria, and Turkey in Europe; Argentina, Ecuador, and Peru in South America; and Indonesia, Burma, and Philippines in Asia, leaving India to qualify automatically.

The draw went as follows: Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia in Group 1; England, Chile, Spain, U.S. in Group 2; Italy, India, Paraguay, Sweden in Group 3; and a group of three featuring Uruguay, Bolivia, and France.

Even more significantly, a new format was introduced – to ensure that teams that lost their first game could manage some pride, everybody would get at least two (or three) group stage games. The group winners would advance to a round-robin final four, the only time it was used. Teams earned two points for a win and one point for a draw.

The competition 
Group 1
Brazil opened against Mexico on June 24. Led by two goals from Ademir, Brazil took its first match easily, 4-0. Ademir would go on to win the Golden Boot (leading scorer) with eight goals.

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(Ademir, far left,  of Brazil led the 1950 Cup in scoring. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)

Elsewhere, Yugoslavia beat Switzerland 3-0 in their first match. As good as Brazil was, though, they were vulnerable. In the next match with Switzerland, they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead through Alfredo (3′). But Swiss superstar Jacques Fatton led them back in it, finishing with a brace, his second one in the 88th minute to deny Brazil of a victory. It finished 2-2, and with Yugoslavia beating Mexico 4-1, it suddenly looked very scary for the hosts. In the rubber match between the two countries, Brazil won 2-0 with Ademir and Zizinho both scoring. Brazil had won the group, but any thoughts of coasting to victory were proven wrong. Switzerland won 2-1 over Mexico to earn a respectable win and a draw.

Group 2
England’s supposed “manifest destiny” began on a high note. Led by a Mortensen goal (27′) and another one from Wilf Mannion, England coasted 2-0 over Chile. The United States held their own for a while against Spain, leading in the 17th minute when Gino Pariani gave them the lead. But in the last ten minutes, Spain stole the game by scoring three times. The Americans had left the door open just a crack, and Spain took advantage. But the next game was one of the most memorable in World Cup history.

It took place on June 29 in Belo Horizonte; that same day, Spain had beaten Chile 2-0 to seize control of the group. England had a professional team of great players, while most American players were born overseas, and most of them were amateurs. One of them who fit both criteria was Joe Gaetjens, who was born in Haiti and worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant. He only qualified for the American team because he was preparing to acquire citizenship – which, in the end, was never finalized. He would appear in only three matches for the United States. But he became their cult hero in 1950.

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(Joe Gaetjens would be the hero for the U.S. against England. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

England had won 23 and tied three of its last thirty games. The United States had played seven international matches leading up to the World Cup, had lost all seven, and were outscored 45-2 in those games. Goalkeeper Frank Borghi drove a hearse, and defender Walter Bahr had a full-time job as a high school teacher. The odds of an American victory were 500-1, and those were considered pretty generous.

But even before the match, England goofed up. Because subs weren’t allowed until 1970, future England star Stanley Matthews was left on the bench at the behest of the FA. They planned to save him for tougher opponents. But it wouldn’t work out that way.

England wore blue shirts for the only time in their history. They kicked off and almost scored in the first ninety seconds. Mortensen sent a cross to Roy Bentley, who fired. But Borghi made the save. After twelve minutes, England had already shot six times, but the ball hadn’t gone in. The United States had their first shot (25′) saved by Bert Williams. Over the next ten minutes, England threatened again, but Mortensen went high twice, and Borghi saved a shot by Tom Finney.

Seven minutes before halftime, the Americans went on the counterattack. Bahr got the ball in the middle, and fired a shot. Williams raced out to make the save, as Gaetjens got into the box. Reportedly having his eyes closed, Gaetjens dove for the ball. It hit off of his head…GOAL!! Just like that, the United States led 1-0. The initial crowd of 10,000, rooting for the underdogs in hopes of avoiding England later on, only grew larger as the match wore on.

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(The ball escapes past English goalkeeper Bert Williams, as captain Alf Ramsey looks on. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Although the Americans came out with more confidence in the second half, the English attacks persisted. Eight minutes from time, they won a free kick outside of the penalty box. Appeals for a penalty were denied by the referee from Italy. The cross came in and Jimmy Mullen headed the ball downwards. It looked like an equalizer – but Borghi got his fingertips on it at the last possible instance. England protested it had gone over the line, but again, their appeals were denied. England would never have another great chance. The United States held on to win 1-0, one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

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(American goalscorer Joe Gaetjens is carried off the field after scoring to beat England 1-0. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

But what was hopefully going to be a great boon to the game in the States never materialized. Only one American reporter, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was sent to cover the game. He had to pay for it out of his own pocket to cover the match. It was also reported over the wire to the New York Times; they did nothing with it, believing it to be a hoax.

Still, England had a chance to qualify if they beat Spain. It wouldn’t happen, as Telmo Zarra (48′) led Spain to a 1-0 victory to claim victory in all three games. England’s first appearance had fallen short, the first in a series of false hopes in international competition. The U.S. couldn’t take advantage either, losing 5-2 to Chile, despite getting it to 2-2 early in the second half. They finished last on goal differential, and would be out of the World Cup for the next forty years.

Group 3 
Before playing a game, India withdrew. Many claimed that FIFA’s edict not allowing them to go without shoes was the reason, but the more commonly accepted reasons are travel restrictions and the fact that they wanted to focus on the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. As a result, only three teams finished the group. Italy took an early lead against Sweden, but two goals from Hasse Jeppson led to a shocking 3-2 upset, including the winner (68′). The Swedish went on to tie Paraguay 2-2 which would be enough to advance. Italy won their other game, 2-0 over Paraguay. But it wouldn’t be enough.

Group 4
Just like India, France withdrew before playing a game. With only two teams – Uruguay and Bolivia – now in the group, the winner would advance automatically. It would be Uruguay, winning 8-0 in a rout. Bolivia would be out until 1994. Significant goalscorers included Oscar Miguez, with a hat trick, Juan Schiaffino with a brace, and Alcides Ghiggia scoring once. Because of the one match, Uruguay had a slight advantage – fresher legs going into the final four.

Final group stage 
The last four competed in a second round robin stage. Uruguay opened against Spain, and earned a hard-fought 2-2 draw, including one goal from their captain, midfielder Obdulio Varela. Brazil used a four-goal outburst by Ademir to win 7-1 over Sweden. They looked to control their own destiny by winning 6-1 over Spain. In the Uruguay-Sweden matchup, it was Sweden who took the early lead (5′) on a goal by Karl-Erik Palmer. Ghiggia leveled the score (39′) shortly before halftime. But only one minute later, Stig Sundqvist gave Sweden the lead again. It would be 2-1 Sweden at halftime. Uruguay used a goal by Miguez to tie the score (77′), and his second eight minutes later provided Uruguay with their margin of victory. That goal would have lasting implications – had the score remained level, Brazil would have won outright that day. But Uruguay was still in it. Sweden won 3-1 to take third place in their final game. The de facto final was all set between Brazil and Uruguay on July 16.

Brazil had every right to be confident – the Maracanã was considered a good luck charm, they had Ademir scoring goals, and a great goalkeeper named Moacir Barbosa. But his fortunes were about to turn for the worse.

200,000 fans packed into the stadium. Brazilian confidence was high – some say too high. Newspaper O Mundo printed a headline on the day of the final: “These are the champions of the world.” Jules Rimet had prepared a winner’s speech in Portuguese. Even Uruguayan fans had low expectations, with many saying that it would be a victory if they lost by only four goals and had nobody sent off. Rumor has it that during the national anthems, the hometown crowd was so loud that Uruguayan midfielder Julio Perez wet his pants. But before the final, Obdulio Varela tried to rally his team, saying that Uruguay had to attack in order to win.

Brazil took the initiative early, firing shot after shot. Uruguay’s defense bent but didn’t break, and Brazil shot wide of the post numerous times. An early incident occurred in the first half that showed Brazil’s vulnerability. After a hard foul from Brazilian defender Bigode on Ghiggia, Varela raced up to Bigode and slapped him hard near his ear. Bigode protested, but nothing happened. It went unpunished. Reputation alone wasn’t going to work. It was scoreless at halftime. Still, Brazil controlled its own destiny.

Two minutes after halftime, the home team broke through. Getting the ball in the box, Brazilian forward Friaça aimed low. It skipped past goalkeeper Roque Maspoli for the first goal. It was 1-0 Brazil. The crowd went wild. The Cup was theirs for the taking. But Uruguay’s captain had a plan.

Varela raced toward English referee George Reader, complaining that the goal was offside. At least that’s what it looked like. As Varela later admitted, he was buying his team time. By the time an interpreter had come onto the field to end the conversation, the ball was ready to kick off again. Varela beckoned to his team, “Now it’s time to win.”

The rallying cry worked. As good as their offense was, Brazil was weak in the back. Bigode had been shaken up by the incident early on, and it should also be mentioned that Brazil were denied a penalty in the 61st minute. Five minutes later, the dam burst. Varela sent the ball to Ghiggia. He faked around Bigode, who was desperately trying to catch him. Ghiggia crossed the ball to a waiting Juan Schiaffino. BAM!! A beautiful one touch got past Barbosa to level the score. Brazil still would have been good enough to win at this point. But suddenly, the fans began to grow tense.

Juan Alberto Schiaffino scores Uruguay's equaliser
(Juan Schiaffino levels the score past a diving Barbosa. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

For the first time, serious doubts began to creep into the Brazilian fans and players. Now the hosts were struggling to hold on. For the next ten minutes, their passes weren’t as sharp, and Uruguay began dictating the pace. Seventy-nine minutes in, Ghiggia got the ball.

By his own words, Ghiggia wasn’t sure what to do. He could pass or shoot. He had to make a split second decision. Racing toward the corner, he shot. It wasn’t hit all that hard, but it had a lot of spin on it. It took a bounce and headed toward Barbosa….and it got past the Brazilian keeper. The ball was in the net. Uruguay 2, Brazil 1. Inside the Maracanã, it suddenly became as quiet as a funeral.

(Alcides Ghiggia gives Uruguay the lead with a goal. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Many people expected Brazil to score again. They would go on to popularize the game in the ’50s and ’60s with their flair and goal prowess. They desperately attacked the goal, trying to find that goal to give them the Cup. But led by powerful back Schubert Gambetta, Uruguay was having none of it. Reader check his watch. The whistle blew. Uruguay had won the championship. Just like that, Brazil had been stunned into silence.

So devastating was the loss that several fans immediately jumped to their deaths from the rafters. Rimet was forced to cancel his speech and merely present the trophy to Varela. But there were no cheers, just tears and silence. One writer said, “This is our Hiroshima.”

Barbosa was never allowed to live his mistake down. Fairly or not, he was used as the scapegoat for them losing the Cup. He confronted two men on a train to a beach several days later. A few years after that, he was shopping. A woman noticed him and pointed towards him, talking to her young son. The mother said to the son: “He’s the man who made all of Brazil cry.”

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(Uruguay celebrates its second championship in 1950. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

Fun Facts 
Joe Gaetjens met a tragic end of his own. He returned to his native Haiti, and eventually ran afoul of the government of corrupt leader “Papa Doc” Duvalier in July 1964. The police, known as the Tonton Macoutes, took him into custody following a mass purge. He was never seen again.

Barbosa was known for not wearing gloves, a rarity for a goalkeeper, because he said he wanted to feel the sting of the ball.

In addition to Barbosa, Bigode was also singled out for criticism. He was accused of backing down after being slapped by Varela.

Much of the loss was blamed on the fact that Brazil wore white shirts and pants with a blue collar. Uniform redesigns were soon done, with rules that they had to contain the colors of the flag (green, yellow, blue). That led to the birth of the iconic yellow jerseys we know Brazil for today.

Alcides Ghiggia was the last surviving member of the final game, dying on July 16, 2015 at the age of 88. His death occurred 65 years to the day of his game-winner.

In 1963, Barbosa was given the wooden goalposts used in the final. He took them home and burned them, trying to remove himself from the memory.

Ghiggia was famous for saying that only three people had ever silenced the Maracanã: Pope John Paul II, Frank Sinatra, and him.

Uruguay won its second World Cup championship. They have not been back to the final since, let alone won.

Alf Ramsey, who played on the losing side for England in the U.S. game, would later manage England to the 1966 Cup title.

The final game would be known in Brazil as the “Maracanazo,” or “Maracanã blow.”

Not only was the U.S.-England game forgotten in America, it was ironically forgotten in England as well. At the time, a lot of newspapers had only one page of sports coverage, and that same day, the England cricket team had lost to a team from the Caribbean, which was considered so monumental that it stole the headlines.

Final Thoughts
Barbosa desperately attempted to restore his good name. But the Brazilian public wouldn’t let him. He attempted to meet the Brazilian team in early 1994 in preparation for the Cup, but was forbidden to do so – they considered him a jinx, a bad luck charm. The taunts and bitterness toward him never went away. He died in 2000 at the age of 79, penniless and without having his good name restored. While I’m paraphrasing a little bit, he was believed to have said the following: “In Brazil, the maximum sentence is 30 years in prison. Mine was a lifetime sentence.”

References and Sources
Getty Images
Barbosa: The Man Who Made Brazil Cry (ESPN 30 for 30 documentary)
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments (BBC 3 documentary)
The Game of Their Lives (2005 film)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
And Gazza Misses the Final (Rob Smyth, Scott Murray)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)

1938 FIFA World Cup: France

Many believed that Italy had only won their title due to home cooking in 1934. Having to defend their title elsewhere, many thought that they wouldn’t repeat. However, the doubters were proven wrong – Italy repeated, and with the world on the verge of war, the World Cup did its best to compensate. The beautiful game couldn’t stop the war, but it would come back stronger afterwards.

(The 1938 FIFA World Cup poster. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

1938 FIFA World Cup 
June 4-19 

Host: France 

Champion: Italy 
Runner Up: Hungary 
Third Place: Brazil 
Fourth Place: Sweden 

Top scorer(s): Leônidas, Brazil (7)

In a similar vein of the World Cup, Italy had won the Summer Olympics in Berlin in 1936. That same year, FIFA controversially awarded the World Cup to France. Many federations in South America were outraged; many thought there was an agreement (albeit an unspoken one) to alternate continental hosting duties. Whether or not FIFA agreed with this argument, it would be France’s chance to host, which many believed was due to the influence of its president, Jules Rimet. While certainly considered better than many of his successors, many argued that France had been favored.

Qualification and preparation 
Ten French cities would host matches – Paris (in two stadiums, including the legendary Parc des Princes), Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Le Havre, Reims, Lille, and Antibes. Half were in the northern border and half were closer to the southern part of France. For the first time, the host and the defending champion – France and Italy respectively – qualified automatically. As a result of the decision to give France hosting duties, neither Uruguay nor Argentina chose to enter the competition. Also, sadly, politics got in the way for Spain, as the Franco regime forced them to withdraw from competition before it even started. There would be fourteen spots available – eleven in Europe, two in the Americas, and one from Asia. Europe’s first group was the only four-team group, which Germany won easily, winning all three games over their competition (Sweden, Finland, and Estonia). Sweden was able to sneak in via a second place finish. Norway survived a challenge from Ireland in the two-legged playoffs, 3-2 and 3-3. Alf Martinsen (49′) scored the goal to put Norway through on aggregate. It would be Norway’s first appearance, and their last until 1994. Both Poland and Yugoslavia each won in their capital cities, but Poland advanced on aggregate (winning 4-0 in Warsaw while it was only 1-0 Yugoslavia in Belgrade). Egypt had a chance to make it again, but their matchup was scheduled to take place during Ramadan. As a result, they were forfeited and Romania automatically qualified. Switzerland qualified 2-1 over Portugal, and right on the nose, too – the game was played on May 1, only a month before the tournament started. On top of that, the game was played in Milan. In a special playoff, Greece survived a playoff against British Palestine (winning 3-1 and 1-0), before losing 11-1 in a one-game final against Hungary. The Hungarians were led by Gyula Zsengellér, who scored five times in total, and had a hat trick by the 25th minute. After a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Sofia, Czechoslovakia won the second leg in Prague 6-0. Oldřich Nejedlý picked up right where he left off, scoring twice, while Ladislav Šimůnek had a hat trick (the only three goals he scored for his country, and he only earned four caps for them).

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(Oldřich Nejedlý of Czechoslovakia had led the 1934 Cup in scoring, and scored two more in qualifying to push them through. Photo courtesy of

Latvia survived their playoff before losing 2-1 to Austria in late 1937. However, while officially qualified, Austria would never get out of the starting gate. Early in 1938, the Nazis invaded Austria, known as the “Anschluss,” and the two countries would be annexed into one for the Cup. Controversially, FIFA never gave the Latvians a chance to take their place, offering England the chance instead. But although they invented the game, England was still focused on the Home Championship and declined again. Nobody would replace Austria, and it would be an easy match for Sweden. Lastly, in a three-team group, Netherlands and Belgium drew 1-1 and each beat Luxembourg (2-3 Belgium in Luxembourg City and 4-0 Netherlands in Rotterdam). For the Red Devils, it would be François De Vries (59′) putting them in. As a result of Argentina’s boycott, Brazil qualified automatically, as did Cuba, in their only appearance. All other North and South American teams (including the U.S. and Mexico) withdrew, so Cuba was able to advance without having to play any matches. Similarly, in Asia, the same thing happened and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) qualified automatically as well. The field was set. Like in 1934, it would be a single elimination tournament, with ties being replayed (although they would count in the standings).

The competition
As a result of the Austrian annexation, their game on June 5 against Sweden was forfeited (also called a “walkover”), and Sweden advanced automatically. Cuba earned a hard-fought 3-3 draw with Romania, including a clutch brace from Héctor Socorro, one in extra time. The game would be replayed, with Socorro scoring the first goal (51′) and Tomas Fernandez (57′) scoring the winner, cancelling out a goal (35′) from Romania’s Stefan Dobay. The first match took place on June 4 (Switzerland and Germany drew 1-1, forcing a replay five days later), with all other matches one day later. Hungary won easily over Indonesia 6-0, their only game in the World Cup to date. Hosts France beat Belgium, using a goal in the first minute from Émile Veinante to spark them to a 3-1 victory over their neighbors, with Jean Nicolas’ brace doing further damage. It was the third straight time Belgium had gone home without a win in the Cup. Henri Isemborghs (38′) got their only goal.

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(France and Belgium in action in Paris, won by France 3-1. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)

Newcomers Norway gave defending champions Italy a good run for their money. It was clear that the anti-Fascist crowds would be against the defending champions. Although an early goal (2′) from Pietro Ferraris staked the Italians to an early lead, Norway refused to buckle and got an equalizer from Arne Brustad seven minutes from time. In extra time (94′), Silvio Piola helped the Italians squeak through. Norway would be out for the next 56 years. Initially scoreless through regulation, Czechoslovakia stunned the Netherlands with three goals in extra time, including one more from Nejedlý. The Dutch would also go through a dry spell, failing to get back until 1974. But they would bring a revolutionary tactical formation with them when they did (more on that later).

The best game of the first round was between Brazil and Poland. Before Pelé, before Zico and Socrates, before Garrincha, before Ronaldo, Bebeto, and Romario, there was Leônidas da Silva. He was Brazil’s first major superstar, and he came into his own in this game – and in many ways, so did Brazil. Even more famously, Leônidas could throw himself upside down, flip, and kick the ball, the famous “bicycle kick.” If he didn’t invent it, he certainly perfected it. The match itself was a goalscorer’s dream.

(The Brazil-Poland game was arguably the best game in the ’38 Cup, and it was the highest scoring. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Ivan Eklind of Sweden, the controversial referee of the ’34 final, was behind the whistle for this game. He started the match at 5 p.m. local time in Strasbourg. In those days, more emphasis was placed on attacks, so it was common to see sets of five forwards and only two backs (the roles would be reversed now). Leônidas started the scoring eighteen minutes in, although how it happened is lost to history. But only five minutes later, Poland’s Ernest Wilimowski began an attack. He dribbled past three defenders into the box. Brazilian goalkeeper Batatais brought him down – penalty! Friedrich Scherfke converted to make it 1-1. But only two minutes later, Brazil was back in front through Romeu. Another goal from Peracio made it 3-1 Brazil at halftime. They looked to be controlling their own destiny. Polish coach Jozef Kaluza sternly lectured his players to dig deeper – and then, Mother Nature gave them a helping hand as well. The match had initially favored the Brazilians because of a dry pitch on a sunny field. In between halves, rain turned the field soggy. Leônidas requested Eklind to let him play barefoot, but his request was denied. It would become a contest between two men – Leônidas for Brazil and Wilimowski for Poland. The latter got his first goal 53 minutes in, and tied the score six minutes later. Brazil was having trouble with the muddy, slippery grass. Once the rain stopped, however, Peracio got his second goal of the game (71′) to make it 4-3 Brazil. It looked like Brazil would hold on. But one minute before full time, Wilimowski completed his hat trick to make it 4-4. The match would head to extra time. Brazil went on the attack early in the period. Three minutes into extra time, Leônidas fired a shot. GOAL! His second goal of the game made it 5-4 Brazil. But he wasn’t done, adding one more (104′) to make it 6-4 and complete his hat trick. Then, fourteen minutes later, Wilimowski added his fourth, and it was 6-5. Poland had one final attack in them, with Brazil desperately trying to hold on. Gerard Wodarz fired a shot that barely missed and Erwin Nyc ricocheted a shot off the crossbar. Brazil managed to survive a scare and win the match 6-5. It was one of the most amazing World Cup games in history.

In the replay between Germany and Switzerland, the Germans led 2-0 after 22 minutes, with Ernst Lörtscher of Switzerland becoming the first person to score an own goal (22′). But despite the fusing with Austria, it wouldn’t be enough, as Eugen Walaschek made it 2-1 mere minutes before halftime. Alfred Bickel’s goal (64′) tied it for Switzerland, and two goals in four minutes from Andre Abegglen allowed Switzerland to go through. Germany was out of the cup, and would soon lose the oncoming war. Any thoughts of an empire would be wiped out, politically and on the pitch.

It was clear that Sweden’s walkover allowed them to have fresh legs, and they destroyed Cuba 8-0 in the quarterfinals. Both Harry Andersson and Gustav Wetterström had a hat trick. Cuba has never been back since. After beating Germany, Switzerland’s luck ran out, losing 2-0 to Hungary. While certainly not as good as the 1954 team (one of the most magnificent team), Hungary had some magic of their own that year. The last two games were memorable for controversial reasons. The host France met with Italy, and the pro-French crowd booed the Italians at every chance. Both teams had brought blue jerseys to the game, so Italy was forced to improvise. They switched to black jerseys instead. It worked as they beat the hosts 3-1. Each team traded a goal in the first ten minutes, and it was 1-1 at halftime. But two goals (51′ and 72′) from Silvio Piola gave the reigning champions their margin of victory. France would become the first host not to win the title, although sixty years later, they’d get their revenge.

The last quarterfinal was between Brazil and Czechoslovakia, known by its nickname “The Battle of Bordeaux.” Hungarian referee Pal von Hertzka lost control very early, and after only 14 minutes, Brazil lost a player when Zeze Procopio was ejected. After 30 minutes, Leônidas made it 1-0 with a goal. In the second half, Nejedlý tied the score (65′) with a penalty. However, he was forced to leave early after breaking his right leg. His teammate František Plánička broke his arm while Josef Košťálek would be hurt in the stomach. Leônidas and Peracio also finished with injuries. One minute from time, both teams had a player sent off. Worse, the match went to extra time, with neither team scoring. A replay was necessary. With both teams largely fielding reserve teams, Czechoslovakia took an early 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. However, two goals in the second half, one from Leônidas (57′) allowed Brazil to win 2-1 and advance to the semifinals. After a replay, and a violent first game – and some overconfidence on the part of Brazil – manager Adhemar Pimenta chose to rest him in the semifinal against Italy.

Both semifinals took place on June 16 (this writer’s birthday). Italy and Brazil would meet in the first match in Marseille – the two teams have combined for nine World Cup titles. Leônidas sat on the bench, and it would cost Brazil dearly. It was scoreless through halftime, but Gino Colaussi (51′) scored right after halftime. Nine minutes later, Italy won a penalty. Giuseppe Meazza converted the penalty to make it 2-0. Romeu made it 2-1 three minutes from full time, but a late Brazilian rally fell short. Even if their star was hurt, not having him in the lineup cost Brazil the final.

The other matchup was between Hungary and Sweden. For Sweden, they had extra motivation – their king, Gustav V, was celebrating his 80th birthday that day. Things started well for them too, as a first minute goal from Arne Nyberg gave them an early lead. But after an own goal from Sven Jacobsson (19′), the tide turned in favor of Hungary. Two goals in a three-minute span led to a 3-1 halftime lead for the Hungarians, and they would score two more in the second half (in less than a minute, no less) to make it 5-1. That would be the final score, and it would be Italy and Hungary in the final.

Third place 
Leônidas would return for the third place game between Brazil and Sweden. It looked like Sweden would come back strong, scoring twice in the first 38 minutes. But a minute before halftime, Romeu added a goal for Brazil. Two Leônidas goals ignited a rally, and Peracio added one more. Brazil earned third place honors, winning 4-2.

Italy was the team everybody loved to hate. Scarily, it probably made them better. After only six minutes, Italy had the lead through Colaussi. Two minutes later, Hungary tied the score through Pal Titkos. But Italy was resilient, getting one from Piola (16′) and a second from Colaussi (35′). Hungary never really recovered after that. Although György Sárosi made it 3-2 after 70 minutes, it wouldn’t be enough, as Piola added a brace of his own (82′) to clinch the Cup for Italy. They may have earned the first one through luck and favoritism. But there was nothing lucky about this Italian side in 1938. Over the next decade, the world would fight a war, and Mussolini would go down to defeat, his influence in the World Cup only a memory.

(Italy and Hungary in action in the final. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Vittorio Pozzo and Italy celebrate their second consecutive World Cup championship in France ’38. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Fun Facts 
Italy is the only European team to win consecutive World Cups, and only Brazil has done it since.

During World War II, Ottorino Barassi, vice president-elect of FIFA, kept the Jules Rimet trophy safe by hiding it in a shoe box underneath his bed.

Less than a year after the World Cup ended, Austrian superstar Matthias Sindelar was found dead along with his girlfriend in their apartment in Vienna of carbon monoxide poisoning. The more romantic version has it as a suicide due to the invasion of Europe, or perhaps an accident caused by a faulty chimney. But some have a more sinister argument – that he was murdered by the Gestapo for his role in the friendly between Austria and Germany where he taunted the high ranking officials (see the 1934 post for more information). For what it’s worth, Sindelar never played for the Germany-Austria combined team in 1938, claiming age and injuries, although I think he just couldn’t turn his back on his country.

This was the final time that ties were replayed in the group stage; from here on out, draws would earn one point.

Because of Austria’s withdrawal, Stade Gerland in Lyon was unable to host its match. It was the only match scheduled in the city.

Final Thoughts 
War was on the horizon. While Jules Rimet’s intentions were good, even the beautiful game couldn’t overcome passion, anger, divisiveness. The Cup went silent in the 1940s. It would be another twelve years to get it back.

References and Sources 
Getty Images
Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy (ESPN 30 for 30 “Soccer Stories” documentary)
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments (BBC 3 documentary)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)

1934 World Cup: Italy

After a successful first staging of the Cup in 1930, it was now Europe’s turn to host the second edition. Much like Europe did four years prior, many South American teams were unwilling or unable to make the trip across continents. Even if they had, they probably had no chance in 1934. The host country had a secret weapon – a despotic leader known in his home country as “Il Duce.” Even his own coach, Vittorio Pozzo was under pressure, and was given one order: “Win or die.”

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(The 1934 World Cup poster. Photo courtesy of

1934 FIFA World Cup 
May 27-June 10 

Host: Italy 

Champion: Italy 
Runner Up: Czechoslovakia 
Third Place: Germany 
Fourth Place: Austria 

Leading Scorer(s): Oldřich Nejedlý, Czechoslovakia (5)

It was commonly accepted that the World Cup would rotate between the Americas (or South America, at least) and Europe; still, the organizing committee for Italy ’34 had to convene at least eight separate times before finally picking the Mediterranean country to host. Sweden had also put in a bid, and although the bid was announced in Stockholm, they would be left disappointed. With a budget of 3.5 million lire, the Italians got ready to host the tournament. And in the process, their leader, Benito Mussolini, “Il Duce,” seized every opportunity for publicity. He printed his own tickets for fans, even giving them tours of Italy afterwards. But he was determined to walk out a champion, by whatever means necessary.

Qualifying and preparation 
For the first time, participation was limited to a qualification tournament. For the only time in World Cup , the host country would be forced to qualify as well. But Mussolini had it covered – Italy easily qualified over Greece; in exchange for losing the match purposely, Mussolini offered to pay off a Greek debt left over from the first World War. Greece accepted, and Italy qualified easily. As defending champions, however, Uruguay would not be there, also the only time it happened. In response to several major European countries not participating, Uruguay decided to return the favor. Additionally, the four “Home Nations” that made up the U.K. (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) refused to participate, having their own four-team tournament celebrating its fiftieth anniversary that year, and so chose to prioritize that instead (for what it’s worth, Wales was champion that year).

Most qualifying groups in Europe were three teams at most, usually with the top finisher qualifying; however, Belgium and France got in as second place teams (Belgium sneaking in on goal difference ahead of the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland, who wouldn’t make it until 1990). Austria and Romania got in the same way, and the Austrians had an especially good team, led by Matthias Sindelar, nicknamed “Der Papierene,” or “The Paper Man,” for his slender and slight build. He would be captain of the Austrian “Wunderteam.” Not only was he a tremendous player, but he was known for standing up for himself. Four years later, as the Third Reich was preparing for the invasion of Europe, Germany and Austria met in a friendly. Under strict orders from the SS, it was to end in a scoreless draw. But Sindelar wasn’t listening. He contemptuously rolled the ball inches past the post time after time. Finally, with the match winding down, Sindelar broke rank and scored the first goal, and set up a second. Even more bravely, after scoring, he defiantly celebrated his goal in front of high-ranking Nazi officials. But more on that later.

(Matthias Sindelar was one of the best footballers of the first half of the twentieth century, and captain of the Austrian “Wunderteam.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

There would be sixteen teams in total, with Europe taking 12 spots. The Americas took three of their own – Argentina and Brazil qualified from South America after their competitors withdrew. In North America, the first round saw Cuba win two and draw one with Haiti, advancing to the next round against Mexico. Also a three-match fixture, Mexico won all three by an aggregate score of 12-3 (winning 3-2, 5-0, and 4-1 in order). However, Mexico fell to the United States 4-2 in the one-game playoff in Rome for the Cup – all four goals scored by Italian-born Aldo Donelli. For a long time, it was America’s greatest victory on the pitch against their neighbors to the south.

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(Pittsburgh, PA resident Aldo Donelli helped the United States qualify for the 1934 World Cup. Photo courtesy of

There was one last spot available, with combined qualifying from both Africa and Asia. Initially a three-team tournament, it soon became two as Turkey withdrew early. It would come down to Egypt and British Mandate of Palestine, the forerunner to Israel’s national team. Still, Egypt won 7-1 and 4-1 in the two match qualifier to qualify. They were the first African team to qualify.

Controversially, it would be a single-elimination tournament, meaning a lot of teams would go home after only one match. It would stay like that in 1938 as well, but would finally be fixed for the better in 1950.

The competition
All eight first-round matches kicked off at the exact same time on May 27. Host Italy met the United States in Rome, and won easily, 7-1. A hat-trick by Angelo Schiavio, two from Raimundo Orsi, and one each from Giovanni Ferrari and Giuseppe Meazza gave Italy its margin of victory. Donelli scored for the United States in their last appearance for sixteen years. And it should have been worse – as put by a New York Times scribe, “only the fine goal-tending of Julius Hjulian of Chicago kept the score as low as it was.”Italy would meet debutante Spain, who beat Brazil 3-1 in Genoa. In Turin, Sindelar scored Austria’s first goal against France, and Austria scored twice in extra time (and survived a penalty from France’s Georges Verriest) to win 3-2. Egypt’s first game in the World Cup. played in Naples, ended in a 4-2 defeat to fellow newcomers Hungary – and Egypt wouldn’t make it back again until 1990. Although Czechoslovakia fell behind early in the 11th minute in Trieste, the winning goal came from  Oldřich Nejedlý (67′) to advance, 2-1. Argentina was in a state of flux, and not a single one of the players from 1930 returned. It showed, as Sweden beat them 3-2 in Bologna, with Knut Kroon (79′) breaking the tie. Also winning 3-2 was Switzerland, beating the Netherlands In Milan in the first game for both of them. Lastly, in Florence, the Germans beat their neighbors from Belgium 5-2. It would take Belgium until 1970 to get their first win in the Cup; still, their star player Bernard Voorhoof scored twice.

(Bernard Voorhoof scored twice for the Belgians in their 5-2 loss to Germany. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Because draws weren’t allowed in the knockout stages until 1982, any games drawn after extra time would be replayed from the beginning. That’s exactly what happened when Italy and Spain met on May 31. Both teams scored once, with Italy’s coming before halftime, but neither team scored again. It would be replayed the next day, with Italy winning 1-0. Rough play marred both matches, with Spanish first-choice goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora being injured in the first match. Even worse was Spain maiming Italian player Mario Pizziolo, who broke his leg. It was so bad of an injury that Pizziolo never played for Italy again. Austria and Hungary, once one country, met in the quarters as well. Although he didn’t score, Sindelar was able to dictate the pace better than his counterpart, Hungary’s star player György Sárosi. Although Sárosi scored later in the match, Sindelar caused Hungary so many fits that they won 2-1. Still, it was also a physical game, and Austria would have to play the host nation, who were undoubtedly receiving favorable calls. Even worse, midfielder Johann Horvath would be out due to injury. Two Karl Hohmann goals led Germany to a 2-1 win over Sweden, while Czechoslovakia won 3-2 over Switzerland in the final match. The Czechoslovakians fell behind 1-0 early (18′), scored twice (24′ and 49′) before Switzerland tied it (78′). But four minutes later, Nejedlý broke though and struck the winner to send them to the semifinals.

Italy and Austria met up, the hosts against the Wunderteam. Controversially, Mussolini was said to have eaten dinner with Swedish referee Ivan Eklind the night before, ostensibly to discuss “tactics.” However, many believed that Eklind had been bribed to send Italy to the final. Fellow Austrian forward Josef Bican certainly believed so; he fired a great shot heading toward the goal. But accidentally or otherwise, the ball sailed toward Eklind, who used his head (literally) to re-direct the ball back to Italy. The ref’s header prevented Austria from scoring. Enrique Guaita (19′) scored the solitary goal to send the hosts into the final. Opposing them would be Czechoslovakia, who advanced thanks to a Nejedlý hat trick. Could Italy’s leader really pay his way to a title?

Third place game
Germany and Austria met in the third place match, in a match with both sporting and geopolitical implications. Germany scored in the first minute through Ernst Lehner, adding a second (42′) to give Germany a 3-1 lead at halftime. Austria got one back, but Sindelar and the Wunderteam would fall one goal short. Over time, Germany would make the semis numerous times. Austria would find it harder to come by.

It would be Italy versus Czechoslovakia for the Cup on June 10. Played at the stadium of Italy’s National Fascist Party in Rome, Ivan Eklind was invited back to referee the final. Temperatures were close to 40 °C, or 104 °F. After a scoreless first half, both teams had their chances. Finally, nineteen minutes from time, Czechoslovakia broke through. Receiving a pass, Antonín Puč gave the visitors the lead (71′). It looked like they’d hold on. But ten minutes later, Orsi helped Italy tie the score at 1-1 (81′). Neither team scored in regulation, so it was forced to go to extra time. Five minutes in, Giuseppe Meazza started an attack. He passed the ball to Enrique Guaita, who crossed the ball to Angelo Schiavio. Taking the ball, Schiavio faked around a defender and fired. It hit the crossbar and bounced in to give Italy a 2-1 lead. Despite a desperate counterattack by the Czechoslovakians, it wouldn’t be enough. Italy had validated their leader’s crazy behavior, the first European team to win the title.

(Highlights of the 1934 final. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Italy poses for the team photo after winning the 1934 World Cup. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Fun Facts
Not only did Italy claim the Jules Rimet trophy, but Mussolini gave the victorious Italians another trophy of his own, six inches taller and much bulkier.

Because of looser eligibility requirements from FIFA in those days, it was possible to represent multiple countries in the World Cup. Luis Monti played on Italy’s title winning team in ’34, and marked Matthias Sindelar well in the semifinal. He had also played for Argentina in 1930, becoming the only player to make the final with two different countries.

Several despotic dictators used the beautiful game for political gain – during his regime, Francisco Franco helped Real Madrid become the dominant club team in Spain, reportedly using bribes and threats to get other teams to lose. Much of the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona comes from this, as the latter was one of the few parts of Spain to rebel against him. Still, the national team was not able to achieve the same level of success. Additionally, Saddam Hussein and his son Uday would use “motivational techniques” (i.e. cruel punishments) to help Iraq qualify for the only time in 1986.

A longtime mainstay of Inter Milan, the stadium used by both Inter and AC Milan is named the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, although it’s still more commonly referred to as “San Siro.”

For the first and only time in the World Cup, the final eight teams were all European. All four teams from outside Europe went out in the first round.

Aldo Donelli, who scored the only goal for the United States in their loss to Italy, later became a coach in college football and the NFL. In fact, he once did both simultaneously, coaching Duquesne University in the NCAA and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL

Bernard Voorhoof, who scored both goals in Belgium’s 5-2 loss to Germany, is the co-leading scorer all time for the Red Devils, tied with Paul Van Himst with 30 goals scored for the Belgians.

Final Thoughts
The plans for Italy had worked. As Europe – and the world – prepared for another major war, the game would take a backseat. Although Rimet envisioned the World Cup as a way to break barriers down, it seemed like they were being put up instead.

References and Sources 
Getty Images.
New York Times.
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)

1930 FIFA World Cup: Uruguay

It’s called the world’s game. Every four years, teams compete for a trophy and a title of world champions. The World Cup is arguably the biggest event in world sports. Here’s another project, from the World Series to the World Cup. The formatting will be a little different on this one, but I’ll do my best. Some countries, like West Germany, and Yugoslavia, are no longer around, but I’ll refer to them as such for historical accuracy.

1930 FIFA World Cup
July 13-30 

Host: Uruguay 

Champion: Uruguay 
Runner-Up: Argentina
Semifinals: United States
Semifinals: Yugoslavia

 Top scorer: Guillermo Stábile, Argentina (8)

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(The first ever World Cup poster, 1930 in Uruguay. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Association football, or soccer, or whatever term you want to use, really came into its own in the late 19th century in England. They in turn passed the game on to the rest of the world, first spreading it to Europe and then to the other continents. As domestic leagues started up, it was soon apparent that representing country was even higher of an honor. While South America first hosted the Copa America in 1916, there were no other major international competitions outside of the Summer Olympics. Even back in the 1920s, it was clear that the game would be a driving force, marred by scandal, rioting fans, national pride, and everything in between. At the behest of FIFA president Jules Rimet, a new competition was created – the World Cup.

Qualifying and Preparation
On the one hand, there wasn’t any qualifying – for the only time, the participants were in by invitation only. Uruguay was given hosting duties, having won the Olympic gold in 1924 and 1928. Many saw Uruguay getting it in recognition of the centennial of their independence. But it wasn’t just that – they were the only country able and willing to pay for the costs of hosting. In preparation, a new stadium was built in the capital city of Montevideo, Estadio Centenario. All games would be concentrated into three venues in the capital city. Still, there were doubts about whether Centenario would even be ready in time, a common refrain for hosting duties in years to come. Finally, five days before the tournament opened, the stadium was ready.

Additionally, as mentioned, it was invitation only for this tournament. Because commercial aviation was in its infancy, few European countries were willing or able (or both) to make the journey to Uruguay. For many, traveling by ship to and from would have meant losing almost two months’ worth of income. Finally, four European teams were assembled: Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia. But even these four countries weren’t necessarily chosen by accident. Belgium participated because one of their countrymen, Rodolphe Seeldrayers, was vice-president of FIFA. Along similar lines, France was the home of president Rimet. New Romanian King Carol II handpicked the squad himself, and was able to ensure that the players would not lose their jobs. Yugoslavia almost boycotted, but decided to send a team anyway. Nine other teams joined them: host Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States. The Americans were incidentally believed to be favorites – imagine the reactions today. For all the knocks on the USMNT, they had a fair domestic league at the time called the American Soccer League, with big name teams including the Fall River Marksmen and Bethlehem Steel F.C. Still, many never took to the game because of existing national prejudices that still existed in America. Thirteen teams would participate in total – one group of four, and three groups of three.

The competition 
Group 1 
The world’s premier event got its start on June 13, 1930 between France and Mexico. Because Uruguay was in the southern hemisphere, it was winter weather. In the nineteenth minute, Lucien Laurent of France took a cross into the 18-yard box and volleyed a shot past the keeper. It was the first goal in World Cup history. For Laurent, it was his first goal for his country, and one of only two he would ever score for Les Bleus. For Mexico, it got worse, as two goals in a four-minute span made it 3-0 France after 43 minutes; they got one back in the 70th minute, but another France goal helped them win 4-1 in the first World Cup match.

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(France’s Lucien Laurent scored the first goal in World Cup history. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Still, France would go on to lose their remaining two games, to Chile and Argentina. Argentina would win all three games to take the group, with Guillermo Stábile scoring a hat trick against Mexico and a brace (two goals) against Chile, to send Uruguay’s neighbor (and rival) into the semifinal. At the time, only the group winner advanced, so while Chile won two games, it wouldn’t be enough. And ties wouldn’t really be recognized until 1950.

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(Stábile scores one of his eight goals for Argentina to lead all scorers. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Group 2
This group featured Yugoslavia, Brazil, and Bolivia. While the first two would have their share of successes at the World Cup, Bolivia never got out of the starting blocks, losing both of their games by a 4-0 scoreline, although to be fair, they had a few goals disallowed for offsides. The Yugoslavia-Brazil meeting decided who advanced. Brazil was largely seen as the group favorite. However, in one of the first upsets of the World Cup, Yugoslavia got two goals in the first half hour to hold on to win, 2-1. Brazil would later become a mainstay of the World Cup, but not yet.

Group 3 
Hosts Uruguay matched up with Romania and Peru. While yellow and red cards wouldn’t be introduced until 1970, referees could still dismiss players at their discretion. And so it was with Peru’s Plácido Galindo against Romania – the first official dismissal in a World Cup after 70 minutes. Romania took full advantage, winning 3-1, with Constantin Stanciu scoring (79′) and Nicolae Kovács adding one ten minutes later (89′). The Uruguayans were criticized for not beating Peru more easily in their first match, emerging 1-0 on a goal by Héctor Castro (65′). A mainstay of Uruguayan club team Nacional, Castro had sliced off part of his right arm at the age of 13. Still, since football is a game played with your feet, it didn’t matter that much. He would have his moment later in the tournament. Peru lost both games, but were praised by their media for holding Uruguay so close. In the final match of the group, Uruguay dominated, winning 4-0, all four goals coming in the first 35 minutes. The hosts advanced to the semifinals.

Group 4
The United States team had a lot of new players, so perhaps their status as group favorites was overblown. Still, they had a great team that beat Belgium 3-0 in their first match. America’s first World Cup was scored by Bart McGhee (23′). Even the newspapers were surprised how easy it was – the Belgians had won Olympic gold in Antwerp. The Red Devils also criticized the refereeing and playing condition of the pitch, but to no avail. They fell to Paraguay 1-0 in their last game, before the U.S. returned the favor to Paraguay, winning 3-0 again. Perhaps there was something to this U.S. team after all.

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(The first United States World Cup team lines up before the Belgium game, America’s best result to date in the World Cup. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Argentina and United States met up. While America probably had their best team in its history, they proved no match for Argentina. After ten minutes, rough play saw midfielder Raphael Tracy rushed to the locker room. At the time, substitutes were not permitted, so having to play man down would prove costly. Luis Monti (20′) gave Argentina a 1-0 halftime lead, and the U.S. had a few close chances. But then the wheels fell off – it got to be 6-0 in the second half, before Jim Brown scored a late goal to prevent the U.S. from being shut out. It was America’s first and only appearance in the semifinals in a World Cup.

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(The U.S. and Argentina in action in the semifinal. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

The other semifinal between Uruguay and Yugoslavia was marred in controversy. Part of it dated back to bad blood at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Yugoslavia raced out to an early lead (4′) when Đorđe Vujadinović beat goalkeeper Enrique Ballestrero. Many people then believed the home country got some advantages – Yugoslavia had a goal ruled out five minutes later, and Pedro Cea scored his first goal in the 18th minute. He’d complete a hat trick in that game. Two minutes later, Peregrino Anselmo gave Uruguay a 2-1 lead. But Yugoslavian players argued that the ball went out of bounds, and a Uruguayan policeman kicked the ball back onto the pitch, which the referee missed. In any event, Uruguay scored four times in the second half, including Cea completing his hat trick, also winning 6-1. Yugoslavia maintained they were robbed, but nothing ever came of it.

Two rivals along a geographical divide known as the Rio de la Plata (River Plate) met in the first World Cup final. A compromise was reached – each team would be allowed to use their own ball for one half. Argentina earned the right to use their ball in the first half, and Uruguay in the second. The decision seemed to favor each team; after both teams had scored in the first twenty minutes, Argentina used a Stábile goal (37′) to take a 2-1 lead at halftime. But once Uruguay was allowed to use their ball, the tides turned. Cea equalized the score at 2-2 (57′), followed by Santos Iriarte giving the hosts the lead for good (68′). Finally, late in the game, Argentina pushed forward looking for an equalizer. Penalty shootouts wouldn’t be introduced until 1982, so the game would have to be restarted from the beginning. But the counterattack broke, and Castro scored one last time to make it 4-2 Uruguay (89′). In the first World Cup, the hosts proved their staying power. The rivalry would continue, and more importantly, a global tradition was born.

(The World Cup winners Uruguay line up before the final. Photo courtesy of 

Fun Facts 
Argentina was reportedly so rough with the United States in the semifinal that their trained came out to treat one of them. He also injured himself doing so, dropping a bottle of chloroform on the ground, which shattered and caused the fumes to knock him unconscious.

In the Argentina-France game, the referee inadvertently blew the whistle for full time six minutes early. He realized his mistake, but France had reportedly equalized when the whistle blew. They played the remaining six minutes, but France never got that close again, losing 1-0.

For all of the knocks on American soccer (football), they do have two records – the first hat trick in the World Cup, scored by Bert Patenaude against Paraguay. Initially, it wasn’t him, but FIFA credited him with a goal that was originally credited to another player. Additionally, goalkeeper Jimmy Douglas kept the first clean sheet (shutout) of the tournament against Belgium.

Let it be said that Belgium did make the final at least once – referee John Langenus of Belgium did the honors for the first final. Except for a likely missed offside call that led to Argentina’s first goal, he was praised for doing an excellent job.

France’s captain, Alex Villaplane, was later convicted of treason with the Nazis in World War II. He was executed by firing squad in 1944.

The United States has never made the semifinals since 1930, and has only made the quarterfinals once since then – 2002.

Even many of the traditional powers had issues with their players – Argentina had one of its players leave early in order to take the bar exam for practicing law in Buenos Aires. Additionally, Uruguay’s first choice goalkeeper was sent home for cavorting with women.

Only 300 people attended the Peru-Romania match, probably the lowest attendance ever for a World Cup match.

While not officially listed, people believe there was a third place game between the U.S. and Yugoslavia. Various sources have one side winning, while others have the other winning. I’ve placed the United States ahead, but only for alphabetical purposes.

Belgium had won gold at the Summer Olympics in Antwerp (1920), but under controversial circumstances. In the gold medal game, Czechoslovakia was trailing, and protested a rough play. The referee didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt, the Czechoslovakians walked off the field in protest, and were immediately disqualified.

Final Thoughts 
A tradition was born. The Uruguayans, arguably the dominant team in the world (they were like Spain of the 2000s), proved their staying power. Initially used as a way to foster international relations, the spectacle would erupt over the next eighty years.

References and Sources 
Getty Images
New York Daily News.
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)







Celebration Project: Day 31

Day 31 (December 31) 
Celebrate endings, and hopefully better beginnings for next year. 

I know, I know. 2016 was a rough year for a lot of us, for various reasons. I know I generally skirt around things; part of it is that I’m non-confrontational by nature (which I don’t necessarily consider a flaw – it can help knowing when to step back), and also because you don’t need me to tell you. People who read this blog already have a good idea of where they stand, and where I stand. They are some of the wisest people I know, so I feel like telling them something I know would just be overkill.

Anyway, 2016 saw a lot of us forced to confront our own naivete for the first time in a while, perhaps for the first time ever, really. As 2017 prepares to start, we just have to take it a day at a time, if at all possible. Although, quite honestly, I’ve run out of words about it. This is meant to be bittersweet, not just bitter. The “sweet” part can add a nice little touch at the end.

Perhaps this project didn’t quite turn out like I’d hoped. It seemed like certain things were always going to be there even with it. Maybe I’ll do this again, maybe not. But it has been fun trying to think of new things. Only four weeks ago, I was watching great friends in a show. Now I stand mere months away from a wedding (not mine) and hitting the big 3-0. The latter has been something I’ve been looking forward to for some time; not necessarily for a reason, but just to say I did it. There’s something cool in that, I think.

I think it’s a fitting bookend to the project to include a song from a musical, like I did with the first one. Jonathan Larson’s Rent was the inspiration of this project. One of musical theatre’s best stories (albeit immensely tragic at the same time) involved Larson himself, dying of an aortic dissection the night before the world premiere of the show. But the show went on, with the cast breaking tradition – the most recognized song, “Seasons of Love,” was sung at the beginning of the show in his honor (for those who don’t know, it’s the opening of Act 2 after intermission, which takes place on New Year’s Eve). I remember seeing the production at IU my last year of college, and out of nowhere, the cast invited us to sing along with them after bows. I’ve never seen anything like it before. A lot of us didn’t know the words, but we swayed along to the music. Chills to this day. So, as much as it’s been done to death in twenty years, it became my anthem for New Year’s. Let everybody else have “Auld Lang Syne.” As sacrilege as it is to put the movie version over the Broadway version, I think any rendition does it justice.

Any advice for 2017? Not really. Except…

Live. Love. Argue. Debate. Engage. Cry. Laugh. Take long walks by yourself, or with other people. Take comfort in family and friends. If you have a job, go to it. Sometimes, just going about our usual routine can show strength. It shows that you don’t let it get to you. That’s my plan.

One last thing to wrap up the project, and the year: I may have trouble showing it, or accepting it when it’s offered. But I am always available with a listening ear if you’d like. I may not be able to do it your way, but I’ll do whatever I can. I am grateful for that. Much love and best wishes for 2017.