World Cups Past - The 1950's

Published: May 01, 2014 13:11pm EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated May 01, 2014 @ 01:11pm EDT


The final countdown to the World Cup has now begun and we are little over a month away now from the kick off in Brazil on June 12th. The USA will take the field against Ghana four days later at the Arena das Dunas, Natal. Drawn in a group which also include Portugal and Germany it is vital Klinsmann’s team hit the ground running.

Over the next few days I will look at the United States participation in all the World Cups throughout the history of the competition dating back to the 1930's. Obviously there was no World Cup’s in the 1940's with the ones scheduled for 1942 and 1946 cancelled due to the Second World War.

Yesterday, I looked at the 1930, 1934 and 1938 World Cups, one of which includes a local Baltimore man. Today it is the turn of the 1950's, and that fantastic result against the English!


So the war had finished, officially, in 1945 and so the world was now looking for something to get excited about and get behind with the cost of war having put many countries on their knees. The format was changed around a bit with the sixteen teams getting put into four groups of four teams.

The winners of each group would progress to a final group, then the winners of that group would be the winners of the Jules Rimet trophy. With it being the 25th anniversary of the FIFA President, Frenchman Jules Rimet. It looked different to the one you will see in this, and previous World Cups as it was stolen in 1983, although it had actually been replaced in 1970. Depicting the Greek goddess of victory it was a smaller trophy than the current one.The Jules Rimet stood 14 inches tall and weighed in at 8.4 lbs. The ‘new’ trophy stands 14.4 inches tall but weighs 13.6 lbs.

So to the World Cup the USA were placed with Chile and two European powerhouses, Spain and England. First up was a 3-1 defeat to Spain, although the US initially went 1-0 up. That lead held up until the last ten minutes when Spain scored their three. Four days later they would take on the other European powerhouse, England and again take the USA would take the lead. Born in Haiti, and dying there fourteen years after this World Cup, Joe Gaetjens gave the USA one of the most surprising results in World Cup history. Against players like Stanley Matthews, Jackie Milburn, Tom Finney and Alf Ramsey, the lesser known Americans dominated. If you want to read more about this particular game then I recommend you read ‘The Game Of Their Lives’ by Geoffrey Douglas or watch the film of the same name starring Gerard Butler as Goalkeeper Frank Borghi and Jimmy Jean-Louis as the goal scorer, Gaetjens.

That would be the best it got though for the USA as they faced Chile in the final game. The Chileans were 2-0 up just after the half an hour mark before the USA pulled it level with two goals in the first three minutes of the second half. The lead was restored by Chile and with half an hour to go they were 4-2 up before a fifth was added with eight minutes to go. Ironically, because of that big win, Chile finished above the USA who ended bottom of the group, while Spain went through. Sweden, Brazil and Uruguay joined Spain to play for the trophy and the final game of that group turned out to be between two of the teams fighting for the top spot, and therefore the trophy. Uruguay would go on to turn around an initial one goal lead taken by Brazil to win the tie, and win the trophy, at the expense of the host nation.


The USA did not participate in this running of the World Cup, once more back in Europe. The format returned to the system we are familiar with now with four groups of four and the top two teams going into a knockout system.

The World Cup in 1950 was the first one after the Second World War but this one marked the reintegration of the West German team. Every game for that side must have had some kind of emotional baggage for both the Germans and their opponents after the amount of suffering in and around Europe only a decade before.

Getting through the group, after a playoff, the West German’s faced Yugoslavia and then Austria on their way to the Final. In the final they faced their group rivals, Hungary, who had beaten them 8-3 earlier in the competition. The Final started in a similar way as Hungary raced to a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes. Ten minutes later though and West Germany had tied the game up before taking the lead, and winning goal, six minutes from time. The win was a fantastic achievement for a side who were certainly the underdogs, and not the force that we recognize now.


Again the USA missed out on this tournament in Sweden which actually saw Wales and Northern Ireland progress to the knockout stage but England miss out after a playoff with the Soviet Union.

Although Wales would get knocked out by eventual winners Brazil 1-0 and Northern Ireland suffered a 4-0 defeat to eventual third placed France it was still a great achievement for the two Nations.

Even the hosts Sweden did well beating the Soviet Union and West Germany on the way to the Final where they would eventually lose to Brazil. This marked the first time that a non European side won the competition while on European soil.


Come back next Wednesday for a look at the 1960's. This decade only had the two World Cup’s one in 1962 held in Chile and the other in 1966 held in England. Although the USA were not involved in either of these World Cups I think I might be able to find something to write about regarding the team winning the 1966 competition!


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