World Cup Facts To Amuse You (For About Ten Minutes)
by Brian Kennedy
(first published in the July 2010 Monaghan United match programme)
1950 – Scotland try not to qualify
With the home nations refusing to participate in the pre-war World Cups, FIFA were desperate for participation from the home of football. FIFA made the very generous offer that the winners of the Home International Championship of 1949-50 could play at the Brazil World Cup of 1950. They also allowed the tournament to remain intact with no home and away qualifiers, unlike the rest of Europe. Amazingly they also offered a place to the runners up! With the kind of foresight we’re so accustomed to in our football administrators, the secretary of the SFA, George Graham (no, not that one), declared that Scotland would only participate should they actually win the Home International Championships! Going into the deciding match between Scotland and England at Hampden both sides had won their previous two fixtures and thus a draw would suffice. Scotland would be declared joint champions (goal difference was a mere glint in the milkman’s eye in 1950), pride would be intact and the SFA could start buying buckets and spades for the Copacabana. Unsurprisingly, Scottish hubris was completely undone when Roy Bentley scored the only goal of the game in front of the obligatory 360,000 Hampden crowd to give England, (who had no qualms about going as runners up) a 1-0 victory, and the title. Scotland captain George Young desperately tried to persuade the SFA that they had made a monumental error, but to no avail. The committee were men of principle and their imbecilic decision stood.
Two points arise from this. Firstly, maybe Graham was a man of vision. England were humiliated by the USA and came home after the group stage. Secondly, this was a splendid system of qualification and one that the home FAs should campaign FIFA to reinstate.
1950 – Not Quite the All-American Hero
The man whose goal lead to one of the World Cup’s greatest shocks, the USA’s 1:0 victory over the then mighty England, was in actual fact from Haiti. Joe Gaetjens, born in Haiti with a Haitian mother and Belgian father, was only allowed to play for the Americans because he’d declared an intention to become an American citizen. However, after the World Cup he moved to France and played for Troyes before returning home to Haiti in 1954 without ever having gained U.S. citizenship. The story ends with a terrible twist though – he was arrested by the country’s secret police, the notorious Tontons Macoutes, in 1964 and is presumed to have been killed by one of their death squads.
1962 – Chile’s Special pre-Match Meals
Back in 1962 the host nation came up with the strange idea of replacing their usual pre-match meal with something that reflected their opposition. So before the opener against Switzerland they had cheese (presumably with holes in) and before their next game against Italy they polished off some spaghetti (obviously). With the idea serving them well (they beat the Swiss 2:1 and the Italians 2:0) they took it into the quarter final clash with the USSR. However, not fancying a big plate of cabbage, they opted for a few swift vodkas, and it did them no harm whatsoever as they triumphed again, 2:1. The semi-final against Brazil was a pre-match binge too far though, with the mighty Brazilians winning 4:2, the strong coffee proving to be a weak substitute for footballing excellence.
1974 – Cruyff’s Adidas Dilemma
Anyone watching a re-run of the 1974 World Cup might be forgiven for thinking that the sight of Johann Cruyff sporting an Adidas top with only two stripes was down to the grainy quality of 1970′s videos. It wasn’t. Cruyff had a lucrative deal with Puma and insisted that he wouldn’t play in a shirt advertising their big rivals famous three-stripe markings, so the Dutch FA had a special shirt made with only two stripes on it. Everyone was happy again. Except Adidas.
1982 – One Rule for Diego…
As they’d done in previous World Cups, the Argentinean FA handed out shirts alphabetically to squad members, so Ossie Ardiles was handed number 1 despite being a midfielder, and defender Jose Van Tuyne was given number 22. However, under that system 21 year old prodigy Diego Maradona would have worn no. 12, so to keep him sweet he swapped with Estudiantes defender Patricio Hernandez so that he could appear in his favoured number 10.
1986 – One Rule for Diego… and Daniel. And Jorge.
When the Argentinean FA announced in 1986 that they would be doing a repeat of 1982 and ordering the shirt numbers alphabetically, apart from Diego Maradona who would swap again to number 10, Real Madrid striker Valdano and captain Daniel Passarella pulled rank and insisted on keeping their own numbers too, so Passarella kept his favoured number 6 and Valdano wore 11, rather than the number 21 that he was originally pencilled in for.
1994 – Everyone’s Happy. At last.
With the threat of multiple dummy’s being thrown out of multiple prams, the Argentinean FA at last reverted to a ‘sort it out yourself’ squad numbering system, and, despite their being a number of players who hankered after the number 10 it’s safe to say that none of them suggested having a game of scissors-paper-stone with Mr Maradona for it.
2006 – Swiss Miss
Switzerland were knocked out of the 2006 tournament in neighbouring Germany despite not conceding a goal in the entire tournament. A fine opening 0-0 draw with France was followed up by 2:0 victories over Togo and South Korea, a series of results that saw them top Group G. They then drew 0:0 with Ukraine in the 2nd round but went out 0:3 on penalties, proving that despite having a strong defence they couldn’t hit a barn door with a giant Toblerone against the stronger footballing nations.