World Cup Curiosities
All our World Cup curiosities and oddities...
1950 - Scotland try not to qualify
With the home nations refusing to participate in the pre-war World Cups, FIFA were desperate for participation from the home of football.
FIFA made the very generous offer that the winners of the Home International Championship of 1949-50 could play at the Brazil World Cup
of 1950. They also allowed the tournament to remain intact with no home and away qualifiers, unlike the rest of Europe.
Amazingly they also offered a place to the runners up! With the kind of foresight we're so accustomed to in our football administrators,
the secretary of the SFA, George Graham (no, not that one), declared that Scotland would only participate should they actually win the
Home International Championships! Going into the deciding match between Scotland and England at Hampden both sides had won their previous
two fixtures and thus a draw
would suffice. Scotland would be declared joint champions (goal difference was a mere glint in the milkman's eye in 1950),
pride would be intact and the SFA could start buying buckets and spades for the Copacabana. Unsurprisingly, Scottish hubris was
completely undone when Roy Bentley scored the only goal of the game in front of the obligatory 360,000 Hampden crowd to give England,
(who had no qualms about going as runners up) a 1-0 victory, and the title. Scotland captain George Young desperately tried to persuade
the SFA that they had made a monumental error, but to no avail. The committee were men of principle and their imbecilic decision stood.
Two points arise from this. Firstly, maybe Graham was a man of vision. England were humiliated by the USA and came home after the group stage. Secondly, this was a splendid system of qualification and one that the home FA's should campaign FIFA to reinstate. If it was good enough for 1950 (and 1954 as well, when Scotland did accept a place via the runners up spot), it must be good enough for 2010. Lord Triesman, contact Herr Blatter forthwith. It is surely inconceivable that some foreign desk Johnny could possibly refuse this request from the motherland. And from a Lord to boot!
1950 - Not Quite the All-American Hero
1958 - Wales Qualify thanks to Middle Eastern Politics
The Welsh finished second in their three team group behind Czechoslovakia. However, they were given a second chance due to a succession of teams from Asia and Africa Section refusing to play the recently created Israeli state. Israel was initially due to play Turkey in a two legged tie, but the Turks seeing themselves as European, threw a hissy fit and refused to compete as an Asian nation and withdrew.
In the 2nd phase Indonesia refused to play in Israel and Fifa rejected their request to play the match on a neutral venue. Egypt wouldn't play them anywhere. This enabled Israel and Sudan to go forward to the Asia / Africa final qualifier. However, the Sudanese then decided they wouldn't play Israel which technically qualified them for the Sweden.
However, Fifa had ruled that no team could qualify without playing a match and so a hastily arranged play off was organised with a 2nd place team in Europe. Belgium was drawn out of the hat, but for reasons best known to themselves, they wouldn't play Israel either. Perhaps George Graham had left Hampden for the Belgian FA (see 1950). The Welsh had no such compunction and duly won the play off 4-0 on aggregate after 2-0 wins in Tel Aviv and Cardiff.
The Welsh have never qualified for the World Cup since. They've had close shaves but usually a missed penalty (1993) or a dodgy refereeing decision in Scotland's favour (1977 & 1985) puts paid to their chances. Perhaps benefiting from turmoil in the Middle East is their only hope.
1962 - Chile's Special pre-Match Meals
Back in 1962 the host nation came up with the strange idea of replacing their usual pre-match meal with something that reflected their opposition. So before the opener against Switzerland they had cheese (presumably with holes in) and before their next game against Italy they polished off some spaghetti (obviously). With the idea serving them well (they beat the Swiss 2:1 and the Italians 2:0) they took it into the quarter final clash with the USSR. However, not fancying a big plate of cabbage, they opted for a few swift vodkas, and it did them no harm whatsoever as they triumphed again, 2:1. The semi-final against Brazil was a pre-match binge too far though, with the mighty Brazilians winning 4:2, the strong coffee proving to be a weak substitute for footballing excellence.
1974 - Cruyff's Adidas Dilemma
1978 - The 1000th Goal
1978 - More Oranje Controversy
1. After helping the national team qualify for the 1978 finals in Argentina Cruyff then promptly announced that he wouldn't be attending the finals. Amongst the various theories for his absence were that he refused to play in a country that was now under the rule of a military dictatorship, that his wife had banned him from travelling to the tournament, and that he'd had enough of the financial and tactical disagreements that had come commonplace with the Dutch FA.
2. Whilst the loss of one of their top players may be considered unlucky, to lose two was downright careless. So when creative midfielder Wim van Hanegem legged it out of the pre-tournament training camp the Oranje fans back home wondered what on earth was going on. Another classic dispute between a player and the Dutch FA saw the latter claiming that van Hanegem was tired from a tremendous season with AZ67, whilst the player claimed that it was over disagreements regarding money. Whatever the reason. the Dutch had just lost another creative force.
3. After Cruyff had pulled the old "I'm not wearing 3 stripes" trick back in 1974, you'd have thought both the Dutch FA and Adidas would have got wise to it. They hadn't. This time not one, but two players refused to wear the trademark Adidas stripes, and so two special shirts were made for the Van de Kerkhof brothers. Cruyff may not have been there in person but it seemed he was still there in spirit.