West Germany 1974

Let's look back at the tenth World Cup, held in West Germany in 1974 and won by West Germany - their second win.

The qualifications for 1974 were the beginning of a dark period in English football (and no doubt, consequently a bright period for Scottish fans). England had lost to Poland 0-2 in Poland and drawn 1-1 with Wales at Wembley. The needed a win in their final game against Poland to qualify.

The mood in England was good - a win seemed inevitable. Poland's goalkeeper, who regularly played in white socks, red shorts and a yellow jersey was labelled "a circus clown in gloves". When Poland went 1-0 up, it was surprising but not too alarming. England dominated the first half (14 corners) and eventually netted an equaliser with 27 minutes to go. But it was the clown's night - he starred in goal with an unorthodox but very effective performance. The final score was 1-1 and England were out, despite having had 35 goals attempts to just 2.

England didn't qualify again for the finals until 1982. The loss to Poland on October 17, 1973 is still talked about as a pivotal moment in English football. It took a long time to recover. (Some would say they still haven't.)

Belgium's qualification story is one of hard luck. They were drawn in the same group as 'Total Football' Holland and only one team could qualify. Their coach's maxim was let's not concede any goals and we'll be right. And it worked very well. They kept clean sheets, defeated the weaker teams and kept the Dutch scoreless for a 0-0 draw at home.

The last game away to Holland would decide who would go through. A supreme effort again kept the Dutch scoreless. Cruelly a lineman's flag denied them what appeared an legitimate goal for offside. The game finished 0-0. Sadly for Belgium, Holland went through with a better goal difference and went on to finish runners-up. Belgium are left with the unenviable record of being the only team to miss out on qualification without having conceded a goal.

FIFA's insistence on only 16 teams at the finals from 95 entrants meant for the first time that a European team would play a South American team in a qualifier. The USSR drew 0-0 with Chile in the home leg in Moscow. Then Pinochet stormed to power in Chile. The national football stadium became the setting for torture and murder. Two months after the fanatically anti-communistic Pinochet came to power, the USSR was due to play the return leg in that very stadium. Four days before the tie, the USSR put conscience above winning and pulled out and Chile duly qualified. What makes this so remarkable though, is that the game was still actually 'played'. 40,000 fans turned up to watch Chile, in full kit, go through the motions and stage the match with no opponents.

1974 was of course the first time (and now thankfully not still the only time) Australia qualified for the finals. And we managed to enter the record books on our first attempt. And it was through Welsh referee Clive Thomas, a stickler for the rules known as 'The Book' for his fondness of taking names. He was (in)famous for issuing a yellow card to a player while said player was being stretchered off with a broken leg.

Australia's third game was against the aforementioned Chile in a game rendered meaningless by earlier results. Both sides were going home. The game was played in torrid conditions and play was actually suspended during a torrential downpour. Thomas was the fourth official.

Australia's Ray Richards picked up a yellow card in the 37th minute. Late in the second half he transgressed again. The referee reached into his pocket, but generously showed Richards a second yellow (but no red) and allowed him to play on. Naturally the Australians kept their mouths shut. But the Chileans and the linesmen got into the spirit of things and also said nothing. After all it didn't matter. But Thomas couldn't contain himself. He lasted five minutes before a quiet word with a linesman ended Richards' World Cup seven minutes early. Thomas remains the only 'spectator' to ever have a player sent off and Richards remains the only player to ever play 'illegally' at the finals. Update: until 2006 that is.

The final was between hosts West Germany and Holland, two very bitter enemies following the hostilities of WWII. Fans jeered each other. The press joined in. Tension was very high. On Sunday July 7 in front of 77,000 fans in Munich's Olympic Stadium, Franz 'The Kaiser' Beckenbauer led out his team to match up against Johan Cruyff's side. How could anyone steal the limelight.

Enter English referee Jack Taylor. Supremely focused, he delayed the kick-off when he spotted that stadium staff had forgotten to put up the corner flags. But this was trivial. After just 90 seconds, before the West Germans had even touched the ball as the Dutch taunted them with possession football, Taylor awarded a penalty, the first ever in a WC Final. Beckenbauer hissed to Taylor the worst insult he could think of, "You are an Englishman of course". The Dutch went 1-0 up with the fastest goal ever in a final.

The Dutch then sat back believing they would win. The West Germans then earnt themselves a dubious penalty. Opinions are divided over the decision - was it a dive? Taylor later said curiously the penalty was for 'intent' not 'contact'. It was 1-1 after 25 minutes. So after going 44 years without a penalty in a final we now had two. Holland, rattled, conceded another before half-time. As the players left the pitch at the break Taylor gave Cruyff a yellow card for backchat. There were no further goals; the game finished 2-1 to West Germany. Sadly such a momentous game is largely remembered for the referee.

Postscript: At a glittering FIFA bash in 1999, Jack Taylor was admitted into the FIFA International Hall of Fame. Beckenbauer said a few nice words. Cruyff actually presented the award. As Taylor approached the Dutch legend, he reached into his pocket, drew out a yellow card and held it aloft. It brought the house down and once again Taylor had stolen the show.

Mexico 1970

Let's look back at the ninth World Cup, held in Mexico in 1970 and won by Brazil. Some say this was this greatest Brazilian team ever, if not the best team ever. They clinched Brazil's third win, the first country to win it three times.

El Salvador qualified for this World Cup in a historically significant fashion. The actual history makes for fairly unsavoury reading. Suffice to say their qualifiers against Honduras were marred by riots and several deaths. The press and governments of both countries actively made things worse.

After each country won one game each, the playoff was moved to neutral territory. El Salvador triumphed 3-2 in that game. A few days later troops from both countries began assembling on border territory. On July 14 1969, war broke out. Officially it only lasted four days, but 6000 people died and the conflict dragged on for years.

There were many factors that caused this war, including a decade of tension and economic hardship. But it seems fairly clear that the World Cup qualifiers between the two countries did act as a catalyst. So perhaps George Orwell, who wrote in 1946, that "football was war minus the shooting" was not too far off the mark.

When Bulgaria played West Germany at the finals in June of 1970, Milko Gaidarski made his World Cup debut. What was remarkable about this was he was the first Bulgarian player at the World Cup finals whose surname doesn't end in a 'v'. (To date Bulgaria have played at seven finals and only one other player has matched this 'record'.)

On June 11 1970, England faced Czechoslovakia for a spot in the quarter-finals. A 2-0 loss would mean a coin toss. Anything better would put them through. Allan Clarke made his full international debut up front for England. June 11 was a red letter day for Clarke. It was his wedding anniversary, his wife's birthday and the day he transferred to Leeds for a then record transfer fee. He was so confident he volunteered to take any penalties England were awarded.

Sure enough England were awarded a penalty just before half-time with the scores 0-0. Viewers at home were expecting Bobby Charlton to step up in his record-equalling 105th appearance for England to score his 50th international goal. They were quite surprised to see Clarke step up. Needless to say, Clarke scored, England won 1-0 and June 11 is now even more special for Clarke.

England 1966

Let's look back at the eighth World Cup, held in England in 1966 and won by England, their first and only win so far. They were the third host to win and the first for twenty-two years.

Given the English FA's somewhat conservative approach to football, it is perhaps surprising to learn that the concept of a World Cup mascot was introduced by England for WC 1966. Every host since has followed suit.

North Korea's attendance at the World Cup presented some problems for the English public service as the United Kingdom did not officially recognise the People's Republic of North Korea. They'd been hoping Australia would qualify but North Korea defeated us 9-2 on aggregate to take the final spot. England couldn't risk banning them in case FIFA switched hosts, but they put many obstacles in their way. This was all kept from the public at the time and only came to light after 30 years elapsed and the documentation was made public.

Firstly, the North Koreans were denied entry visas, before the governing Labour party and the FA stepped in. Invitations were "overlooked", eg. the North Koreans were the only country not invited to the official draw. The North Korean flag and anthem were banned from all stadiums, although the FA managed to get the flags flown to honour sponsorship agreements. Their anthem was only played at the opening and closing ceremonies along with all the other anthems, but not before their games. And finally one of the official World Cup stamps featuring the North Korean flag was hastily pulled and replaced just a few weeks before kick-off.

On the field the North Koreans did very well. Their group games were played in Middlesbrough and the English public got right behind the underdog. North Korean started badly with a 3-0 loss to Russia, before drawing 1-1 with Chile and then defeating Italy 1-0 to earn a quarter-final spot. Incredibly North Korea lead Portugal, who eventually finished third, 3-0 after 24 minutes before Eusebio scored four and Portugal won 5-3.

The precious Jules Rimet trophy was released by FIFA for display in Westminster. Two days after the exhibition opened the trophy was stolen on Sunday March 20 while the guards were on a break. A ransom demand was made to the FA accompanied by a small detachable part of the trophy. Scotland Yard conducted a sting operation and duly caught a dock worker called Peter Betchley. He got two years in gaol but refused to reveal the mastermind behind the theft or the whereabouts of the trophy. The police were stumped. Miraculously a barge worker out walking his dog found the trophy wrapped in newspaper under a hedge near his flat in Beulah Hill, when his dog Pickles started rooting under the hedge. Pickles became a national hero and his owner David Corbett received the 5,000 pound reward.

England defeated Argentina in a quarter-final in a match that lived up to its expectations of being a brutal match. The Argentine behaviour was awful, including spitting, violent conduct and so on. Their captain was sent off, refused to leave the pitch for eight minutes, eventually left the field but staged a sit-down on the sideline before a policeman lead him to the changeroom. Following the game the England manager referred to the Argentines as animals. And ever since then matches between the two countries have been bitterly fought. One statistic that is rarely remembered is the foul count from that game: Argentina 19, England 33.

Chile 1962

Let's look back at WC 1962, the seventh World Cup, held in Chile and won by Brazil, their second win and as the holders as well (although they weren't the first to win two or win two in a row).

A devastating earthquake struck Chile in May 1960 seemingly cruelling Chile's chances of winning the vote to host the World Cup. 5000 people died and 1/3 of Chile's buildings were damaged. It took a special appeal from Chile's FA President to FIFA to sway the vote: "It is because we now have nothing that we must have the World Cup". They won the vote.

But not everyone was happy about this. Two Italian journalists went too far though, criticising many aspects of Chile. As luck would have it, Chile met Italy in the first round. It was a brutal match from the first foul after just 12 seconds to the very end. There had been some rough games in prior World Cups but many observers credit this match as the beginning of the "win at all costs" attitude at the World Cup.

Have you heard of Luxembourg? Probably, but you may not be aware of their WC record. It's appalling. Their qualifying record stands at 100 games, 2 wins, 2 draws and 96 losses. Their for/against record is 50/340. They have finished bottom of their group on every attempt (and obviously have never qualified for the finals). The qualifiers for WC 1962 saw Luxembourg claim their first qualifying points after 54 years of trying! They defeated the mighty Portugal 4-2. It would be another 14 years before they saw another point. Now many countries have failed to qualify so that's not their record. Luxembourg's claim to fame is that they are the only country (yes the only one) to have played in every WC qualifying tournament. The fact they've never reached the finals just makes this record a very miserable one.

On June 10, Yugoslavia defeated West Germany in a quarter-final. Nothing too remarkable about that, except that it was the third consecutive World Cup where the two countries met in a World Cup quarter-final - a unique sequence. Remarkably the countries met again in 1974 (in a second round group) and in 1990 (in the first round) and in 1998 (after the unification of Germany and the political fragmentation in Yugoslavia) where they finished equal on points in their first round group.

Sweden 1958

Let's look back at the sixth World Cup, held in Sweden in 1958 and won by Brazil, their first of a record five victories so far. Intriguingly, of all WC winners, Brazil are the only country never to have won at home.

Brazil matched up against England in the first round in 1958. At the time it was a mouth-watering prospect. Brazil had scored 49 times in 17 WC Finals appearances (scoring in every game), England had 12 goals from 7. Both teams were in fine form. Brazil had scored in both their qualifiers, England had scored 15 goals in their four qualifiers. With such a build-up there was really only one possible result wasn't there? The game finished 0-0, the first ever scoreless draw in 54 years and 104 games of WC Finals football.

One postscript to this scoreless match is that Brazil immediately drafted in an unknown 17-year-old to help them score goals. His six goals in their next four games were key to their first WC triumph. His name was, of course, Pele. Pele remains the youngest player ever to win a World Cup.

Have you heard of Just Fontaine of France? Well you should have. He holds the record for the most goals in a WC Finals series. He scored 3 when France defeated Paraguay 7-3, 2 in a 2-3 loss to Yugoslavia, 1 in a 2-1 win over Scotland, 2 in the 4-0 quarter-final win over Northern Ireland, 1 in the 2-5 semi-final loss to Brazil, and an incredible 4 in the 6-3 3rd/4th playoff win over Germany. Even more remarkably, he only made the side after a late injury opened a spot in the squad. Further, one of his boots fell apart at his first squad training session, so he borrowed a pair which he then used for the entire finals series.

Switzerland 1954

Let's look back at the fifth World Cup, held in Switzerland (the home of FIFA) in 1954 and won by West Germany, their first of three victories so far.

This World Cup marked 50 years of existence for FIFA. You'd think they'd make a party of it. But no, they restricted the tournament to 16 teams again. There were 13 qualifying groups, some with as few as two teams, a typical FIFA imbalance.

And it is here that Spain's bizarre story begins. They drew a group of two with Turkey and were generally favoured to win easily. They began well by winning 4-1 at home. However, Turkey fought hard and hung on for a famous 1-0 victory in Istanbul. So who goes through? Spain on aggregate 4-2? No, FIFA's rules required a play-off. Held in neutral Italy the replay finished at 2-2. Who goes through? Spain on a 6-4 aggregate? Extra-time? A shootout? No, FIFA's rules required that "lots shall be drawn". A local Italian youth was chosen to draw the lots. (Apocryphally he was blind to ensure fairness, but this is not true.) Turkey qualified.

The story continues with some poetic justice. Turkey finished second in their group, ahead of West Germany in third, only on goal difference. FIFA again required a replay. West Germany went through with a 7-2 win. (Which means that under today's rules where goal difference applies, the eventual winners of WC 1958 would have been eliminated in the group stage.)

Our story doesn't end there though. Since then FIFA has grappled with the problem of deciding who progresses from the group stage when teams finish level (and where extra time or shootouts are problematic). The rules have grown more complicated over time and now include goal difference, goals for, the results between the teams finishing equal and so on. But if you read the rules for WC 2006, the last resort in a complex multi-step process is still "the drawing of lots".

Scotland's uniforms at WC 1958 demonstrated some lack of foresight (or perhaps just basic knowledge / geography). The Scottish FA assumed that because the finals were being played in Switzerland with all its high mountains, that it would be cold. The Scottish players were kitted out with thick woollen jerseys with long sleeves and heavy buttoned collars. Their first game was played under bright sunshine and the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius. Their opponent wore light, V-necked T-Shirts and defeated Scotland 7-0.

WC 1954 produced an absolute goal fest, 140 goals from 26 games. Hungary alone scored 27 in just 5 games. Who knows why? Theories abound. Perhaps the introduction of television prompted a need to entertain. One record that hasn't been equalled is Austria fighting back from 0-3 down against Switzerland to be up 5-3 at half-time and winning 7-5. No other team has ever come back from 0-3 down at the finals. West Germany defeated Hungary 3-2 in the final, an incredible victory considering Hungary defeated West Germany 8-3 in the first round.

Brazil 1950

Let's look back at the fourth World Cup, held in Brazil in 1950 after a break of 12 years due to WWII and won by Uruguay, the second country to win it twice. The World Cup as a concept truly arrived in 1950. There was a huge following in the press and public.

The first game between the hosts and Mexico was played on June 24 in front of a massive crowd at the not-quite finished Maracana Stadium. When Brazil opened the scoring, fifteen radio commentators and dozens of reporters invaded the pitch to conduct on-the-spot interviews.

1950 marked the first time that England, the inventors of the game, competed. This was partly due to a long-running dispute between their FA and FIFA over payments to amateur players, but also in large part to the English sense of superiority - they were the best in the world - they saw no need to compete.

England won their first game against Chile 2-0. Their next game was against the USA, 500-1 outsiders to win the Cup. England were expected to win easily; their manager cabled home that the game would be good match practice. The shock 0-1 loss to the USA still rates as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. In England the result was greeted with disbelief. The Daily Express, no doubt harking back to the Ashes, reported on the death of English football. One editor assumed the score was a mis-print and went to press with a 10-1 English victory. In the USA the reaction was similar. The New York Times assumed the scoreline was a wind-up and at first refused to report it. In Scotland, the result was embraced like a home victory. England lost their third game 0-1 to Spain and went home deeply embarrassed.

FIFA had struggled to get 16 teams to compete, with Germany banned, Japan under occupation, etc. but to their credit pulled this off (mostly by softening the qualification criteria). Sensibly they also introduced the group stage (4 groups of 4) to guarantee each team three games. Then things started to go awry.

India had qualified for what has turned out to be the only time. Many of the Indian players played without boots. At the 1948 London Olympics, India sensationally pushed France to the limit, just going down 1-2, mostly without boots. FIFA dropped in a "compulsory footwear" rule at the eleventh hour. India, hampered by lack of funds, opted to pull out rather than buy boots.

Burma declined FIFA's invitation to replace India. Turkey withdrew, but were replaced by France. Then, with both teams qualified, Scotland met England in their final (but moot) qualification match. Scotland lost 0-1 and then withdrew claiming that qualifying by finishing second didn't seem right. Portugal declined to replace Scotland. France, a replacement team themselves, sensing the tournament lacked 'va va voom' withdrew.

The upshot of all this meant Group 4 now had two teams, Uruguay and Bolivia. FIFA then made one of those decisions that had characterised their mis-management of the World Cup to date. They decided there was no need for a re-drawing of the groups. Uruguay (one of the favourites) smashed Bolivia (arguably the worst team) 8-0 to go straight into final group stage.

As it turned out, the final match of this group, between Brazil and Uruguay, would decide the Cup. Brazil only needed a draw to top the group, while Uruguay had to win. Perhaps due to their easy first round, Uruguay came from a goal down to defeat the hosts 2-1 in front of a record crowd of 199,854 to claim the trophy.

France 1938

Today let's look back at the third World Cup, held in France in 1938 and won by Italy, the first country to win it twice and the first to enjoy consecutive wins.

World Cup minnows, Cuba, were the first Caribbean country to qualify for the finals. They got there by virtue of Mexico withdrawing from their qualifying group. They were expected to the tournament's whipping boys, along with the Dutch East Indies (see below). They famously drew their first game against Romania 3-3, with their keeper apparently playing a blinder and keeping Cuba in the game. However, their keeper was dropped for the replay (yes, a replay, not a shootout) for conceding three. At the press conference prior to the replay he predicted a 2-1 win for Cuba and sure enough they won. His crystal ball deserted him in the next round though. Recalled for the quarter-final against Sweden he let in eight as Cuba went down 0-8. They've never qualified again.

The Dutch East Indies holds the record for the fewest minutes of finals football. They qualified after Japan withdrew from their two-country qualifying group after invading China. FIFA tried to stymie them by arranging a play-off against the USA. This time though, the USA, perhaps feeling a little guilty after 1934 declined to play. The Dutch East Indies, consisting of several students and many players making their debut, were defeated 6-0 by Hungary. The finals were still a straight knockout so the Dutch East Indies went home after 90 minutes of finals football. They've never qualified since and don't seem likely to again. Every other country that has made the finals has had more playing time and given that the finals now include a group stage, the Dutch East Indies seem destined to hold onto this record. (In 1947, they achieved independence from Holland and became Indonesia. Their national sport is badminton.)

Debate has long raged over who was the first player to score four goals in a World Cup final's game. The game in question saw Brazil defeat Poland 6-5 after extra time (half time 3-1, full-time 4-4). All records agree that Ernst Willimowski of Poland scored four - a second-half hat-trick and a further goal late in extra time. The records disagree over Leonidas da Silva from Brazil. Some say he scored four, others three. Some say his fourth was before Willimowski's, others after. To this day there is no agreement, although the more rigorous records lean towards da Silva getting three. What is definite though, is that Willimowski remains the only player to score four in a losing side.

Adolf Hitler allegedly detested football and only turned up to one game, which Germany promptly lost, much to his disgust. Hitler is also responsible for two unique records that are unlikely to be broken: the only finals forfeit and the longest hold over the trophy.

In March 1938, Germany invaded Austria and it was incorporated into Germany under a dictate known as Anschluss (meaning Union). Austria having qualified for the finals could no longer participate as the whole country and its F.A. had ceased to exist. The results chart from 1938 reads "Sweden Bye. Austria Forfeit. Anschluss". Occasionally a country forfeits a qualifying match, but this remains the only forfeit during the finals.

World War II, primarily instigated by Hitler and Germany meant the 1942 and 1946 World Cups were cancelled. Hence Italy, who won in 1934 and 1938, held the trophy until 1950 an unbroken run of 16 years, another record unlikely to be broken.

Italy 1934

Let's look back at the second World Cup, held in Italy in 1934 and won by Italy, their first win.

The Cup had caught on and FIFA we spared the indignity of having to approach countries to play. This time 32 teams applied for the 16 spots leading to the introduction of qualifiers. FIFA also had the chance to demonstrate their organisational skills. Sadly, they failed once again.

FIFA's first mistake was insisting that Italy, the hosts, qualify. Italy at the time was governed (dictated) by one Benito Mussolini, not the sort of chap you wanted to upset. Italy defeated Greece 4-0 in Milan in the first leg. Incredibly they then "persuaded" Greece there was no need to play the return match. Effectively Greece conceded the game. Turns out the Italians built a property in Athens for the Greeks as payment. FIFA turned a blind eye. The game in Milan remains the only qualifier ever played by a host nation.

FIFA's next mistake was to turn the finals into a straight knockout. So eight teams went home having played a single game. Not too painful for the 5 European teams, but the USA and South America's big two (Argentina and Brazil) all crossed the Atlantic (a long journey in those days) for 90 minutes of football.

FIFA's third mistake really takes the cake though. Mexico qualified by comfortably defeating Cuba in a 3-game series. However, following the completion of all the qualifiers and the formulation of the groups, the USA applied to join the tournament. Instead of telling them to get stuffed, FIFA bent over backwards to help them. They insisted Cuba meet the USA in a sudden-death playoff. Bizarrely the play-off was held in Rome just three days before the WC started. The USA won 4-2. Cuba ended up travelling to Italy, playing "at" the Wold Cup, but not "in" it, the only country ever to suffer that fate. There was some poetic justice though: Italy defeated the USA 7-1 in the first round and sent them packing.

Statistically the chances of dying by murder, suicide or "mysterious circumstances" are each said to be 1 in 5000, ie. pretty low. Incredibly three men who participated in the three opening games of WC 1934, all played on the first day of the tournament and in different cities suffered this fate. USA Manager, Elmer Schroeder, was found dead hanging from his own window blind cord in 1953 - his death has never been explained. Austrian Matthias Sindelar committed suicide in 1939. Argentinean Alberto Galatea was murdered by his own son in 1961 - the only case of World Cup patricide on record.

Luisito Monti, who played in the losing Argentinean side in the final of WC 1930, and largely blamed by the people for the loss had an Italian father. Unwelcome at home he moved to Italy and won four scudettos with Juventus. He was also selected for Italy. He had a blinder of a tournament and played a big part in Italy winning the Cup for the first time. He is the only player to play in two World Cup finals for two different countries.

Mussolini is alleged to have threatened l'Azzuri with "win or die". Monti is quoted as saying "I had to win the final [in 1934]. If I'd won the final in Uruguay in 1930, the Uruguayans would have killed me. If I'd lost the final in 1934 the Italians would have killed me."

Uruguay 1930

Let's look back at the history of the greatest tournament in the world - the FIFA World Cup. In this first segment, let's travel back to that golden age of football, a time of fair play, sportsmanship and a genteel atmosphere.

FIFA was formed in May 1904 and reserved the exclusive right to organise a world championship. Those familiar with the quality of football administration will not be surprised that it was 26 years before the first World Cup was held in 1930.

FIFA selected Uruguay to host the event. This meant a 15-day Atlantic crossing for European teams - hence only France, Romania, Yugoslavia and Belgium arrived from Europe. The remaining teams came from the Americas: Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the USA. Yes, 13 teams contested the first World Cup - imagine trying to organise the draw!

With a keen sense of history, FIFA had two "first ever World Cup games". France vs. Mexico and USA vs. Belgium kicked off simultaneously. The first ever World Cup goal was scored by Lucien Tinkerbellt of France in front of a recorded crowd of 4,444.

Weird Facts:

  • The Argentine captain missed their game against Mexico. He returned to Buenos Aires to sit a vital law exam.
  • Romania's squad was chosen by their King.
  • Belgium's star player, was suspended for the entire tournament by the Belgium FA, for, wait for it, opening a cafe.
  • The Bolivian team each played with a single letter on the back of their jerseys. When they lined up in the correct order they spelt out a message to their hosts: "Viva Uruguay".
  • Uruguay's first-choice goalkeeper was embroiled in the Cup's first sex scandal. After 8 weeks away from home, he was dropped for their opening game after being caught breaking a curfew and sneaking home for a conjugal visit.
  • In the Argentina vs. USA semi-final, USA trainer Jack Coll ran onto the field to help an injured player. Unfortunately he tripped, accidentally inhaled a spilled bottle of chloroform and had to be helped from the field semi-conscious.

The Golden Age of Sportsmanship:

  • In the Uruguay vs. Yugoslavia semi-final, the ball went out of play, only to be kicked back in by a policeman. The officials pretended not to notice, the Uruguayans played on and scored their third goal.
  • Prior to the final between Uruguay and Argentina, the Argentine captain received a death threat.
  • Both sides insisted on using their own ball. They compromised and swapped at half time.
  • All Argentine supporters were searched for weapons.
  • The referee insisted on police protection.
  • Uruguay employed "tactica robusto" and prevailed 4-2. A national holiday was declared and each Uruguayan player was given a house.
  • The Uruguayan embassy in Buenos Aires was stoned and the two FA's broke off relations.

Plus ça change ...


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