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The Biggest Upset at the World Cup

Updated on November 26, 2022

The Beginning

The First World Cup was held in 1930 in Uruguay.

There were three competitions, 1930, 1934 and 1938, before the World Cup had to be suspended due to World War II.

After the war, the World Cup resumed in 1950. This significant event was held in a mining town called Bela Horizonte in Brazil.

Among the teams were the Kings of Football; the English team and the No Hopers, the one sent by the United States.

The 1950 World Cup

The Brits had won their past 23 games. The players were selected from various professional clubs.

As everyone who knows about football is aware, England has a large number of professional clubs. The players are professionals. They are scouted, recruited, and paid to play for the team. That is because football is very important to the Brits.

The Americans had no team.

There was no professional football (Americans call it 'Soccer') team. The United States simply pulled a bunch of guys together who knew how to play the game and created a team.

There was a teacher, a dishwasher, two mailmen, a mill worker, a hearse driver professional players.

The Belfast Telegram described them as :

“a band of no-hopers drawn from many lands.”

recognizing that many members of the team were immigrants to the United States.

The Brits were certain of winning so rested their star player, Stanley Matthews.
At the time he was regarded as the best player in the world.

The newly appointed American coach, Bill Jeffrey, was full of "confidence" but privately told a British reporter,We have no chance.”

The First Half

The match between England and the United States began with England playing an attacking game.

However, the American goalkeeper, Frank Borghi, who had played minor league baseball as a catcher, (and now drove a hearse in St. Louis) defended well.

With less than 10 minutes to go in the first half, an American midfielder, Walter Bahr, centered a ball from 25 yards out, and Haitian-born forward, Joe Gaetjens, scored with a diving header.

The first half ended England 0 the United States 1.


During the second half, England tried everything. They tried shots from all parts of the pitch. Nothing got past Borghi.

And there is the final whistle; the match ended; England 0 US 1.

The No-Hopers had defeated the Kings of Football!!!

The 30,000 Brazilians who had come to the Match loved every second, as a British loss would help their standing.

Gaetjens, (who would return to Haiti and be disappeared), was carried off the field in celebration.

English fans could not believe the Americans had beat them.

When the score was broadcast, newspaper editors in London assumed it was a typing error and printed the result as “10-1, England.”

In America, as usual when it came to Football, no one cared. Only one American journalist had traveled to Brazil for the World Cup,: Dent McSkimming, of the St. Louis Dispatch, who paid his own way.


After the upset, both teams were quickly eliminated. Uruguay, which had won the very first World Cup went onto win the 1950 World Cup.

The Brits couldn't believe what happened. It was discussed, argued, mourned for a long time. It was front page, the topic of conversation.

However, America ignored this 'miracle on the green' as the world called it.

There was no contact between the American and British Football teams until June 12, 2010.

On that day, sixty years after the first encouter the teams met again at the World Cup in Rustenburg, South Africa.

The match between England and America ended in a draw.


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