World Cup Preview/Review: England/USA

Rosie's World CupIf you ever want to experience the joys of having CJME senior reporter (and if not the biggest fan of English soccer in southern Saskatchewan, one of the most vocal) Sarah Mills claw your eyes out with her fingernails, just say, e-mail, or text two words to her any time before 9 a.m. Saturday morning.
Belo Horizonte. (CBC Sports)
One could argue that the 1950 match between the United States and England in the Brazilian mining city is the greatest single upset in sports. The English team (England Football Online) was comprised of the best players in the First Division, and the manager, Walter Winterbottom, left two of his best players out of the starting lineup, resting them for what was seen as a more critical third game in the group stage.
Team USA (1950-The Year in American Soccer) was comprised of mostly semi-pro players, whose regular jobs were postmen, teachers, workers in knitting factories, dishwashers, and university students, some of whom had to beg time off work from their employers to go to Brazil. Hastily assembled at the last minute, these guys were given no chance – none at all – against England, a country so arrogant about its soccer prowess that (much like Canada before the 1972 Summit Series) they considered international competitions beneath them.
Well, it didn’t work out that way. On June 29, 1950, the United States squeaked out a 1-0 win over England, and the result so shamed England that they changed the colors of their uniform (they never wore a blue jersey, which they wore for that match, [soccer365.com] ever again). But the American team went home largely unrecognized. There was only one American journalist – a St. Louis Post Dispatch sports guy on vacation – amongst the crowd, and he never filed a story. The New York Times devoted all of two paragraphs to the game.
It may be a bit late for the players on Team USA in 1950 to get their due. Only four players from the team remain alive. But the US team that plays tomorrow will wear jerseys based on the design of the 1950 uniforms (footballfashion.org). The US actually matches up very well against the English team, and a victory by the Stars and Stripes isn’t out of the question. But it won’t – and can never again be – as big a surprise as what happened in Belo Horizonte.
The ‘Miracle on Grass’ was also the subject of a movie. The Game of Their Lives, (renamed The Miracle Match when it was released on DVD). It starred Gerald Butler and tanked at the box office when it was released in 2005. It took more than a few liberties with the real story.
YouTube is being a jerk, so I’ll publish the URL for it here.
Really good stories on the match from The Guardian and ESPN. Here’s also an ITV feature on the match (courtesy YouTube, which won’t let me embed videos)
As well, here’s ESPN’s take on Royal Bafekong Stadium in Rustenburg, where Saturday’s match will be played, and some info on the Belo Horizonte stadium which hosted the first England-USA match (Wikipedia).

Author: Stephen LaRose

2006 winner of the Canadian Association of University Teachers's Award of Excellence in Journalism for a bunch of prairie dog stuff. Invited into the best homes in Regina. Once.