The World Cup has not been kind to the Americans. They've never been past the semifinals - and that was 80 years ago - and they have losing records against Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy and Germany.
But there was that one shining moment, long ago, when the U.S. team knocked off a major soccer power: mighty England.
Get set for the rematch in June.
Sixty years after the Americans beat England in what is still considered one of soccer’s greatest upsets, the United States and England will meet in their group opener at the World Cup in South Africa.
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“That game played in 1950 fits into the category of ancient history,” Walter Bahr, who had the assist on the winning goal, said with a laugh. “This certainly is a big game, and there are going to be a lot of parallels drawn. I just hope it never becomes a distraction for the team that’s playing this summer.”
England loomed large over the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. It was the first time the country credited with inventing the game played in the finals, having skipped the first three World Cups because of soccer politics.
With a roster of stars — Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney, Laurie Hughes and Stan Mortensen were among the players dubbed the “Kings of Football” — it was considered a strong favorite, along with Brazil.
The Americans, meanwhile, weren’t even an afterthought. Soccer was still largely a fringe sport in the United States.
“We’d never even come close to beating them,” said Harry Keough, a defender on the ’50 team. “If we’d lost 2-0 or something, we thought that would be good because we usually got trounced.”
England controlled the game early, hitting the crossbar several times.
Then, in the 37th minute, Bahr collected a throw-in from Ed McIlvenny and took a shot from about 25 yards. The ball was heading for the far post and England goalkeeper Bert Williams was already moving to his right when Joe Gaetjens deflected it with a diving header, sending the ball into the opposite side of the goal.
United States 1, England 0.
Some papers actually reported the score as a 10-0 victory for England, figuring the score had to have been wrong.
To this day, England won’t wear dark blue shirts like those it wore in Brazil.