U-S-A! – Their Greatest Achievement

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

Achievements

Despite a sensational performance in qualifying second to Germany, but ahead of an ordinary Portugal with one exceptional, but injured player and a disputes riven Ghana in a difficult group and a glorious defeat to Belgium in the last sixteen, Americans may at last have warmed to football. Not even hosting the World Cup in 1994, their league Major League Soccer (MLS) and reaching the quarter-final in 2002 could help the worldʼs most popular sport break the American market.

This time Americans got behind their team and believed in them, largely due to the efforts of their coach Jürgen Klinsmann, but the US failed to match their greatest achievement, which is not the quarter-final in 2002 as several commentators have wrongly said. The USAʼs greatest performance came at the first attempt – the semi-finals in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, which they managed on merit by topping their group.

84 years before they would meet again in the World Cup Finals the USA beat Belgium 3-0 on July 13th 1930. Bart McGhee got the first goal the American ever scored. Just over 20 minutes later with half-time looming Tom Florie got the second and Bertrand Patenaude got the third with just over 20 minutes remaining.

The First Hat-trick

Four days later an important piece of World Cup history was made. The USA beat Paraguay 3-0 – Patenaude had scored all three, but it took 76 years for FIFA to acknowledge what the Americans knew. Patenaude had scored the first hat-trick in the history of the World Cup.

But for 76 years – over 40 of which Patenaude had been deceased – his second goal against Paraguay was wrongly attributed as an own goal by Paraguayan great Aurelio González Benítez or by US team-mate Florie. Both Patenaude and the man wrongly attributed with having scored the first hat-trick, Argentinaʼs Guillermo Stábille, never lived to see the error put right.

Stábille scored a hat-trick on his début in the 6-3 victory over México. It came two days after the USA had beaten Paraguay 3-0. The US federation believed – rightly as it turned out – that their second goal against Paraguay had in fact been scored by Patenaude and that consequently he had scored the first hat-trick in the history of the World Cup.

On November 10th – a day after the anniversary of his birth and death – 2006 FIFA finally acknowledged that Patenaude had scored a hat-trick on July 17th 1930 at Nacionalʼs Estadio Parque Central in Montevideo. It had taken just over three quarters of a century to acknowledge the feat of the American.

 

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