by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 24th 2014)
Not even Androcles can remove the pain of the three lionsʼ recent exit from the World Cup, but for some there is an awful sense of deja vu that offers a crumb of comfort. Almost 64 years ago to the day England played only their second ever match in the World Cup Finals in the city of Belo Horizonte and fell to a defeat that shocked football. The current crop, who had arrived with high expectations too, will bid farewell to Brasil and the World Cup in Belo Horizonte.
Itʼs too late to learn the lesson, but the scene of the unlikeliest result in World Cup history still exists – rebuilt in 2012, but still there. Roy Hodgson should take his young England team to visit the Estádio Independência to remind them what happened there 64 years ago, when England claimed to be the best in the world and were humiliated. Let the current generation realise that 1950 was infinitely worse and learn those lessons.
This afternoon the current generation of England players face Costa Rica, the supposed minnows of the group. England will return home, while if the Central Americans avoid defeat they will top the group – a group that contained three former winners of the World Cup. Belo Horizonte may just witness another shock of seismic proportions in football involving England
England was the ceded team in their group, which included Spain, Chile and ʻabsolute no-hopersʼ the USA for the first post-war World Cup. England had dispatched Chile on June 25th 2-0. Stan Mortensen scored the first goal – Englandʼs first in the history of the World Cup. Wilf Mannion got the second.
They arrived in Belo Horizonte to play a group of part timers and expatriates not good enough to make it in Europe. It wasnʼt that the USA hadnʼt read the script – they had – they just decided to rewrite it. While England rested their best player Stanley Matthews, top quality players such as Stan Mortensen, Billy Wright and Tom Finney played, but despite bombarding the US goal they could not find a way past an in form Frank Borghi.
Somewhat unsportingly some claimed that the winning goal was a fluke – something the American players refute. Walter Bahrʼs shot was glanced past Bert Williams by the Haitian-born Joseph Gaetjens after 37 minutes. Word got out that a shock was on the cards and locals flocked to the ground to witness an upset. They also hoped that their team could avoid playing England in the final group phase.
The Reluctant Hero
The actual result was so unbelievable that some media reported that England had beaten the USA 10-0. In fact Gaetjens, whose tragic story we told previously (see https://empowersport.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/footballs-shame-archive/ for our report on Gaetjensʼ fate) had scored the winner and it was for the USA. History had been made, but shamefully there is not so much as a plaque to commemorate Gaetjens at the scene of his greatest triumph.
Nor are there plans to hold a minuteʼs silence or applause for Gaetjens at this World Cupʼs last match in Belo Horizonte – the semi final that takes place on the 50th anniversary of the abduction of Gaetjens. He was never seen alive again. In our opinion this was an iconic match in footballʼs history and the scorer of that goal should be remembered by football at Brasilʼs fiesta of football. The US Federation and the FA should join forces to demand that FIFA honour the legacy of Joseph Gaetjens.