Champagne Kit Campaigns #6: Brazil, World Cup 1978

Welcome to the long-awaited sixth installment of Champagne Kit Campaigns, the series in which we have already featured some classic Norwegian, Russian, Dutch and Irish attires. For the first time we now turn our attention to a non-European nation in one of the world’s most recognisable and aesthetically pleasing teams, as seen during a suitably colourful era in which “modern” styles were slowly beginning to emerge.

Background:

From 1954 until 1976, Brazil’s famous yellow shirts, blue shorts and white socks were made by native sports-apparel manufacturers Athleta. No branding from the company appeared in any way on the exterior of the kits, as was the case for most nations at the time (but, since the late 60s, not all). Besides the trademark green collar-cuffs, green and yellow sock turnovers and crest, a lone, white stripe running down the side of the shorts was the only other design element in sight when the side played their last game of 1976 against the USSR.

When next in action – a friendly at home to Bulgaria on January 23rd, 1977 – there would be two small differences: the colour on the socks had been reversed from green-over-yellow to yellow-over-green; and on the shorts – which had remained a particularly light shade of blue throughout the 70s – the stripes had multiplied by three. There was apparently no other outward indication to say so (apart from the goalkeeper, see below), but it was clearly the beginning of the Adidas-era for the seleção (“selection”).


Brazil with (blurry) three stripes of Adidas on their shorts, vs Bulgaria, January 1977.

The same kit was worn for a scoreless World Cup qualifier in Colombia the following month, with the hosts graciously forgoing their – at this point – orange home shirt and wearing all-white instead. The Brazilians returned the favour when the two teams met again on front of more than 132,000 in the Maracanã Stadium in March, donning their blue and white away strip for the first time in the Adidas years, and were rewarded with a 6-0 win.

The darker shade of blue – for both the shirts and shorts trim – than currently seen on the home shorts made a future combination seem unlikely, yet it had already happened at the previous World Cup. The layout of the jersey remained identical to the home, continuing a lack of branding, but this time a trefoil appeared on the shorts of at least some of the players.


Brazil in away kit with trefoi-less (left) and trefoil (right) shorts, at home to Colombia, March 1977.

In the same group, which was in fact a preliminary stage before the final round, the only other country were Paraguay where Brazil traveled next a few days later. From this game comes the first confirmation of a trefoil on the home shorts (it may have already been worn by some players against Bulgaria or Colombia, but we have no visual evidence right now), as well as it seeming that both colour variations of the socks were in use within the team. After a 0-1 win and another draw at home to progress as group winners, a number of glamorous home friendlies (a rarity these days in the country with the money laying abroad) were scheduled for over the winter months.

The regular first-choice strip was used for the opener against England on June 8th (in which the English utilised a rarely-seen red/white/blue combination), before the visit of white-socked West Germany four days later gave an excuse to mix things up. Despite the fact that a sock-clash had recently been acceptable in a competitive setting against Colombia, plain blue (matching the shorts) alternates were chosen for this game, while again some players wore shorts with trefoils but some without.


A trefoil visible on Brazil's blue shorts, with blue sock combination, in the friendly against West Germany, June 1977.

The arrival of Poland with white jerseys on June 19th meant that the blue shirt was given another outing at home, and trefoil-less white shorts were preferred by (or forced upon) the majority. This was also the case when the home strip returned for games against Scotland on the 23rd and Yugoslavia on the 26th (where the goalkeeper, usually in blue or green, sported an interesting white jersey without the signature “Brasil”) but the logo was at least again present for the final friendly in the run against France on June 30th.


Brazil shorts clearly without a trefoil during the game vs Scotland, June, 1977.

The French game presents us with a bigger bombshell however: a faint trefoil and Adidas word mark were actually present on the chests of the jerseys, and possibly had even been there since an earlier match. We know this thanks to the great work done by Soccernostalgia and specifically their Soccernostalgia: Retro Soccer Magazines Facebook page (which exists besides their regular Facebook page) and a post showing close-up shots of the match that clearly reveal the presence of the trefoil (as does this match-worn shirt from the time)

In July, World Cup qualification concluded with a round-robin of three teams who were to play each other once on the neutral soil of Cali, Colombia. The top two would advance to the finals, but the third still got a second chance through a play-off with a European group winner. A 1-0 win over Peru (with “trefoiless” shorts again) on the 10th of the month put one Brazilian foot in the World Cup, and four days later an 8-0 bullying of Bolivia emphatically announced Brazil as qualifiers, and contenders, for the 1978 World Cup in neighbouring Argentina.

1978, pre-World Cup

The 8-0 was the last international for nearly nine months as Brazil would not play again until a tour of “return friendlies” in April, 1978, against the highest profile opponents from the year before – France, West Germany and England. The visit of exotic, South American “royalty” was exciting enough on it’s own for Europeans, but, unbeknownst to the public, this Brazilian side was also bringing a visual treat in the form of some of their greatest kits to date (in our subjective opinion of course).

Ahead of the game on April 1st in Parc des Princes against the French (where the visitors would end up as “fools” after a 1-0 loss), captain and veteran of two World Cups already Rivellino displayed the first part of the gear-evolution with an amazing raglan sleeved tracksuit top, complete with stripes and trefoil.


Style-icon Rivellino ahead of the game against France, April, 1978.

When the warm-up jackets came off, the real feast for the eyes was revealed in the form of Brazil’s new jerseys. Employing Adidas’s “World Cup Dress” template beautifully, the collar and cuffs were perfectly primed to incorporate the ever-present darkish green, and a trefoil returned in a more obvious way while stripes finally now did appear on the sleeves. As was standard on this particular design, the Adidas logo sat particularly high on the chest of the shiny material.


The new Brazil home kit with complete Adidas branding, as seen against France, April 1978.

Besides the shirt, a trefoil was now also standard on the shorts, and the seemingly random green/yellow or yellow/green sock turnovers were replaced with perhaps the piece de resistance of the kit: green, yellow and green hooped-stripes over the white background.

The strip was not quite “complete”, however, at least for some. On the backs of the starting XI’s jerseys, solid green numbers appeared, akin to those on the previous jersey and mirrored by smaller, white numbers on the shorts. But for the substitutes, who were really the ones wearing the kit in it’s truest form, Adidas’s trademark striped number font appeared for the first time.


Above, the sold numbers on starting Brazilian players's backs, and below, striped numbers on substitutes, during France vs Brazil, 1978.

In Hamburg four days later, another of the great Brazil shirts was on show as a slightly new away kit was used. Unlike in Paris, the shirt sleeves were devoid of stripes, but a white trefoil sitting parallel to the crest still gave the shirt an early-contemporary look much like that of their West German opponents’ Erima shirts.

There was more classic 1970s inconsistencies, however, as some players’ jerseys had no trefoil. Considering the sock situation last time, it also would have been nice to see Brazil use their alternate home socks from the year before to avoid the clash, but perhaps this royal blue/white/sky blue combination would have been considered a step too far.


Brazil wearing their away kit in West Germany in April, 1978.

After a two-week break for Brazil (having beaten the Germans 0-1), 92,000 packed into Wembley for the grand finale against the English (a 1-1 draw). While back in the home kit, strangely it would not be the same shirt as used against France, although just as good. The trefoil was now lower, like on the away jersey, and the material seemed of the the less-shiny variety. Finally, on the back, the striped-numbers were now standard, although the solid style remained via the shorts.


The amazing Brazil jersey, front on back, as seen against England in Wembley, April, 1977.

The use of two distinct home shirts on the tour suggests a similar situation to that of the Dutch during the same year (as we saw in CKC#2) who rotated between kits supplied by Adidas Ventex and Adidas Erima. Indeed, examining the label of a Brazilian shirt from the time (via ebay) with the “upper trefoil” positioning (a different collar means that it is a “Santos/Nacional” template rather than “World Cup Dress”) shows the Ventex trademark, while the label of a jersey apparently used against England shows Erima.

Besides the fact that an updated, fresh look for the upcoming World Cup was warranted, the new jerseys’ appearances coinciding with visits to the home of Ventex (France, worn by the French national team), and subsequently to the home of Erima (likewise West Germany, making the similar layouts of the two jerseys used in the German match even more “suspicious”), makes us wonder if they were picked up en-route, or perhaps “part of the deal”.

To conclude their World Cup warm-ups, Brazil welcomed Peru and Czechoslovakia to Rio for friendlies in May, 1977. The weather must still have been balmy heading into southern hemisphere winter as a short-sleeved version of “World Cup Dress” was seen for the first time, with the trefoil now back in it’s “expected” raised position evidentially meaning a Ventex model. After 2-0 and 3-0 wins kept the home fans upbeat heading into the tournament, the question on everybody’s minds must surely have been “which shirt version will be used at the finals?”.


Brazil in the kit used for final World Cup warm-ups against Peru and Czechoslovakia (pictured), May 1978.

*

World Cup 1978, Argentina

At the draw in Buenos Aires on January 14th, 1978, top seeds Brazil ended up in group three of four along with all-European opposition: Sweden, Spain and Austria. As in 1974, when Brazil had finished 4th losing out to Poland in the third-place play-off, the group stage was to be followed by a second round of two more groups, with the top placed sides then ultimately progressing to the final.

With two of the teams in the group wearing yellow shirts as first preference, and three using blue shorts, clashes and combinations of some variety were inevitable. As always, stricter regulations on clashes in World Cups – in part due to those watching on black and white TVs – meant that some classic or unique kit mash-ups were already guaranteed.

Furthermore, following the dawn of World Cup finals kit branding in West Germany four years earlier, 1978 was naturally to be the most commercialised tournament to date. Most teams involved were now wearing some sort of visible trademark from the likes of Adidas, Puma, Erima, Umbro, and even Mexico’s Levis/Adidas hybrid.

Off the pitch it was also set to be one of the most politically charged, as sport was being used as a propaganda tool for not the first or last time. The deaths and disappearances of thousands at the hands of the ruling military Junta – for whom hosting was a proud honour and perfect PR exercise aimed at those home and abroad – resulted in Johan Cryuff famously boycotting the tournament, and, more clandestinely, rebellious groundsmen painting the base of each goalpost black to commemorate the victims of the regime.


First Round, Group 3:

Brazil
Sweden
Spain
Austria


Match 1: Brazil vs Sweden
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 03/06/1978

Kicking off against Sweden on the third-day of the tournament in Mara Del Plata, it was finally time to see what Brazil were wearing. Seemingly the “non-shiny” Erima jerseys got the nod, complete with striped numbers, but notably absent from both shirt and shorts was the trefoil:

The fellow-yellows of Sweden, who like many others were also in the World Cup Dress template, had been drawn as the “away” side in the fixture and were hence wearing their own stunning blue and white change strip:

Showing that the Brazilian’s lack of manufacturer logo had nothing to do with the rules, the Swedes’ version of the same design quite clearly displayed a white trefoil (plus a wordmark, which evidently shouldn’t have been allowed judging by the Netherland’s cover-up job) that contrasted the otherwise yellow trim beautifully (the icing on the cake being the yellow numbers on the back):

Having gone 0-1 down on 37 mins, Reinaldo equalised for the seleção just before half-time to give us a good look at all those great yellow shirts and light blue shorts through the celebrations. Given it was winter in Argentina, which was apparent by the hats and jackets in the crowd, long sleeves were used by all squads throughout the tournament, much to the delight of stripe aficionados like ourselves:

The score would remain 1-1 until the last play of the game when one of the most bizarre incidents in World Cup history occured. With a corner to Brazil as the clock ticked past 90, the ball was swung in and headed into the goal by Zico:

But to his and his teammate’s dismay, the ref – Clive Thomas from Wales – had simultaneously blown for full-time:

As Thomas sternly walked away, while indicating that time had indeed ran out, the “neutral” Argentinians in the crowd enjoyed the disappointment and anger of their South American rivals:

Result: Brazil 1-1 Sweden


Match 2, Spain vs Brazil
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 07/06/1978

Brazil returned to Estadio José Maria Minella – named after a former esteemed midfielder for the local club, but built by the Junta only two years earlier – four days later for the second of three consecutive visits to the stadium in the first group stage. However they were suddenly now the “away” team, which against the “blue-shorted” Spanish created the next noteworthy situation:

Due to the blue vs blue clash, Brazil emerged in their away shorts (also without trefoil if you’re counting) to recreate a great look also seen at the last World Cup – yellow/white/white:

The trim on the shorts was of course blue to match the away jersey, so the strip that had been created consisted of three different stripe-configurations across the shirt (green over yellow), shorts (blue over white) and socks (green, yellow, green over white). Of course this was also the case for the home kit, considering the usual white stripes over light blue, but there it was “intended”.

Other interesting highlights from the match included huge the Spanish flags surrounding much of the pitch, presumably the work of Argentine-based ex-pats:

…and the state of the pitch, which had not sufficiently recovered from the first game was clearly hampering play in certain areas:

Spain were incidentally one team without any branding at all on their kits, as one of the last hold-outs along with Italy. It would turn out to be their final World Cup wearing traditional plain shirts and shorts, while the Italians impressively saw out the rest of the century before giving in.

The pitch surely won’t have helped matters for either side and a 0-0 draw was played out. Following the robbery of victory through a certain Welshman already, a slightly worrying situation for Brazil had suddenly developed going into the last group game:

Result: Spain 0-0 Brazil


Match 3, Brazil vs Austria
Estadio José Maria Minella, Mar del Plata, 11/06/1978

Next up for the so far underwhelming Brazil was a surprisingly strong Austrian side, who had already won both their other matches. Back in the home kit, through the Brazilian team photo we see an interesting detail in that some players (see Oscár, no.3) were in jerseys with narrower outer-stripes on their sleeves. As demonstrated by this Nantes 1976 team photo, and later Sochaux in 1981, the variation wasn’t uncommon in France, perhaps meaning Ventex after all (although we don’t know if it was also used by Erima).

On the 40th minute, the 24 year old with boy-band-esq looks and a name to match, Roberto Dinamite, put his side in front for the first time in the tournament:

Austria were the only side repping Puma at the World Cup, and did so in a very smart template with black shorts and socks:

It was, of course, the Austrian’s third game in a row facing teams in blue shorts. Against Spain, they had combined their white shirts with the white shorts and red socks of their red-shirted away strip, but when facing Sweden, who used the same shade of shorts as Spain and with the added white/yellow TV clash, both sides were strangely allowed wear their full home kits. While we’re on the subject, Spain achieved one of their all-time great unintentional combinations at same time as the Austria-Brazil game through their meeting with Sweden, where their white away shorts were inserted into the otherwise home kit.

In the end, the single first half goal was enough to win it for Brazil, giving them second place and qualification ahead of Spain. Finishing behind Austria was a shock, but would it necessarily mean a more difficult “path” to the final? (since another group was more like a carpark than a path).

Result: Brazil 1-0 Austria


Elsewhere
, it transpired that Brazil weren’t the only big team to under-perform in the first round. In Group 2, West Germany’s 0-0 draws with Poland and Tunisia meant they finished runners-up, saved by a 6-0 demolition of Mexico in between. The Netherlands in Group 4 also drew 0-0 with Peru before a 3-2 loss to the Scottish, but progressed on goal difference after an opening 3-0 defeat of Iran.

In Group 1, the hosts had secured their qualification early with back to back 2-1 wins over Hungary and France, but a 0-1 loss at the hands of the Italians on the last day meant they too would be condemned to 2nd. Overall, these results mean that Austria, Peru and Poland were progressing as unlikely group winners, with Argentina, Brazil, West Germany and Netherlands making up a formidable list of runners-up.

Poland and Peru were the real losers in this, as the would have hoped to have been facing Austria rather Brazil in their group, along with either Argentina or Italy. As it was, they were up against all-South American opposition, while the plucky Austrians were rewarded for their round 1 performances with the delightful prospect of Italy, Netherlands and West Germany.

Second Round, Group B

Argentina
Poland
Brazil
Peru


Match 4, Brazil vs Peru
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 14/06/1978

Having ended up in the South American-heavy Group B in Round 2, Brazil finally “escaped” Mar del Plata and headed west to Mendoza. The familiar faces of Peru were the first opposition in this new pool, with the two teams jousting for the third time in less than a year.

In the home kit once more (with the thin stripes again noticeable), that kid Dinamite was on hand to win a penalty that would help his side go 3-0 up:

But wait, what’s that on the shorts? For the second time in this CKC, it’s another bombshell:

While slightly blurry above, a trefoil was clearly visible. As with the year before, perhaps some had already been wearing shorts with the Adidas’s trademark off-camera, but certainly the intended World Cup kit had been meant to be sans-trefoil. However, like how we saw with the Netherlands it was not unheard of for squads as this World Cup to bring slightly different versions of their kit.

Against a hapless (later suspiciously hapless while playing the hosts) Peru, 3-0 it ended. At least the opponents’ famous sash shirts get a look in here:

Result: Brazil 3-0 Peru

 

Match 5, Argentina vs Brazil
Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario, 18/06/1978

Another fixture that was no stranger to the international calendar awaited in Rosario four days later, and on paper it was the toughest the date for Brazil. Argentina had beaten Poland 2-0 on the same day that Brazil defeated Peru, and, assuming both Brazil and Argentina would repeat these results when they switched opponents, this meant the game between the two was a near semi-final.

When usually facing each other, including at the most recent Copa America in 1976, both would wear their regular home strips. But interestingly, the last time they had played at a World Cup  in 1974 (also first World Cup meeting), Brazil wore their blue/white/white kit, with Argentina in grey socks avoiding a clash on that level.

The jersey change was slightly odd back then considering that it meant both teams ended up wearing alot of blue, and one would have assumed that Argentina’s vertical stripes gave enough distinction as it was. A lesson may have been learned, as this time Brazil repeated the look from the Spain game, while Argentina substituted their white socks for black creating an equally fetching look:

Again, it at least appears that no trefoils were found on anyone’s shorts, but, given what we have seen, there may have been one lurking somewhere among the squad. One of what there was definitely not, though, was goals, as the supposed play-off ended in a 0-0 stalemate. The results of both final games were now crucial.

Result: Argentina 0-0 Brazil


Match 6, Poland vs Brazil ,
Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, Mendoza, 21/06/1978

Back in Mendoza one last time on the southern hemisphere’s shortest day of the year, a repeat from 1974 again lay in store for Brazil in the final group game. Back in West Germany it had been the 3rd place play-off, and now Brazil or Poland could well end up there again next. But a win could potentially take either to the World Cup final too, especially in the unlikely event that Peru beat Argentina later in the evening.

Again the “away” side, the allocation luckily gave the need for the away kit to be finally used in possibly it’s last chance. It was confirmed that, like the home, the blue shirt was devoid of a trefoil, but stripes and stripy numbers were now seen on a senior Brazilian away jersey for the first time ever:

This was another case of a different set of kit-colours being used from the previous World Cup, when Brazil wore the yellow/white/white strip against Poland’s all red. The Polish, in a home outfit nearly as amazing as Sweden away, were another side in World Cup Dress, wearing what appears to be the Ventex version:

Like Argentina before, Poland added their red away socks to the white shirt and red shorts of their home kit to accommodate Brazil’s ever present white pairs. In retrospect, the fact that the whites were the Brazilian’s only option seems like a significant oversight, as the onus was always automatically on the opponents to change. But this sort of thing is of course typical when considering the lack of regulations from era, and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

We mentioned our love for sleeve stripes earlier, and one great thing about this age of World Cups is the lack of official badges that would later haunt the sleeves of modern tournaments. For Argentina 78 in the winter, this meant satisfyingly long, uninterrupted stripes on the Adidas team’s jerseys, with the very notable exception of left Polish arms:

Instead of some sort of juicy political gesture (which probably would not have been allowed even by 1970s standards), the badge, containing a letter C with a heart in the middle, was strangely to represent a children’s hospital in Warsaw that had opened the year before.

At the this late stage, we finally take a look at the goalkeeper kit worn by Brazil’s – or “Brasil” as his jersey said – number 1, Émerson Leão. Since goalkeeper attire was always a bit different in the 70s and 80s (sometimes featuring far more branding and occasionally of a different make altogether) and therefore in a category of their own, we haven’t drawn too much attention to the fact that his “shades of green” strip featured trefoils throughout the tournament :

In the game, three Brazilian goals – including two from Roberto D. – and some South American class were enough to were enough to take the two points (three points for a win wouldn’t be introduced until USA 94), with one consolation goal in return from the Poles:

Two points clear and with a six goal advantage over Argentina, Brazil were in top spot. For now. But their fans celebrated like they were already in the World Cup final:

Result: Poland 1-3 Brazil


Of course
a couple of hours later, Brazil and the rest of the world would watch on as one of the most infamous matches in World Cup history unfolded. Peru completed their hapless destiny (losing all three games in the phase and without scoring a goal) and were suspiciously beaten by the six needed for the Junta’s team to advance.

Without losing a game, incredibly Brazil were out of the tournament. Except for one last thing.


Third Place Play-Off

Match 7, Brazil vs Italy
Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 24/06/1978

At last Brazil had made it to the stage of the World Cup final, except a day before the actual final itself between Argentina and the Netherlands. Instead, River Plate’s Estadio Monumental was also the host of the 3rd/4th place play-off on June 24th.

For the game against Group A runners-up Italy, the full Brazilian home kit was worn one more time with the trefoil shorts again used by at least Roberto:

Before leaving the World Cup, we also get once last look at those great sock turnover hoops:

Italy, for their part, were notable at this tournament for tiny, numbered pockets on the front of their shorts, and uniquely styled numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Often incorrectly attributed to brand-less Adidas at this World Cup, Italian firm Baila Landoni produced the kits:

With the Italians having taken the lead (as evident by above) on 38 minutes, Rivellino – in what would turn out to be his last cap for Brazil – attempted to settled his team mates:

In the second half, Nelinho pulled one back on 64 minutes:

…before Dirceu scored his third of the tournament seven minutes later to win it for Brazil, with the wild celebrations displaying how much this “meaningless” play-off actually still meant:

Result: Brazil 2-1 Italy

BRAZIL – THIRD PLACE

Breakdown
Team: Brazil 
Year(s): 1978
Competition: World Cup 78
Kit Supplier: Adidas
Competitive Games: 7
Kit Colour Combinations: 3
Kit Technical Combinations: 5


Aftermath:

After initial disappointment in the first round Brazil had ended up third in the world, which was at least an improvement on the last tournament, and without having lost in seven games. Furthermore, they could quite legitimately claim that they were “cheated” out of a win in the first game, and a possibly even a place in the final.

Brazil would continue wearing Adidas into 1979, including during that year’s Copa America (held across several countries). In the January summer heat, a short sleeved, “trefoiled” version like that seen before the World Cup was back, but the Adidas logo was level to the crest rather than raised on some player’s shirts.

By 1980, the three stripes and trefoils were gone, replaced by logos of the kit manufacturer for the next decade – Topper. The brief, highly underrated Adidas era – our undisputed favourite for Brazil – was over. Or at least at senior level it was, as their Adidas-produced Olympic 84 and 88 (with, shockingly, green shorts) kits provides us with what an alternative timeline might have looked like where they had stayed on for a few years longer.

*****

YouTube Links:

Brazil vs Bulgaria, 1977
Brazil vs Colombia, 1977
Brazil vs West Germany, 1977
Brazil vs Scotland, 1977
France vs Brazil, 1978
West Germany vs Brazil, 1978
England vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Czechoslovakia, 1978
Brazil vs Sweden, 1978
Spain vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Austria, 1978
Brazil vs Peru, 1978
Argentina vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Poland vs Brazil, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978
Brazil vs Italy, 1978

*****

 

Politics On The Pitch #3: World Cup 1950 Qualifying

To be honest, the following episode of Politics On The Pitch was originally intended as a Football Special Report. But as politics, war, and global history are so intertwined in the 1950 World Cup qualifiers, it seemed more than appropriate to transfer the post to Politics On The Pitch. One of the main tenants of this time was the inability of many teams to actually travel to the World Cup in Brazil, whether they had qualified of not. This was of course in large part due to the proximity of the World War 2, who’s shadow from 5 years before still loomed large and had left many nations in poverty.

Background:

One of the great things about mid-20th century tournaments was the random stuff like extra unscheduled play-off games as tie breakers; groups of four instead of a final game; and coin-tosses to decide things. But the first three FIFA World Cups were actually fairly straight forward affairs: four groups of 3 with the winners progressing to the semi-finals in 1930, and straight knock-out tournaments of 16 teams in ’34 and ’38 (eventually 15 in the latter after the the withdrawal of Austria due to the “Anschluss” with Germany).

Thankfully, the introduction of World Cup qualifiers for the ’34 edition onwards did provide some classic old-school chaos. As this was in the days before regional federations such as UEFA, all potential World Cup candidates were divided into 12 groups based on location. The pre-WW2 system was marked by:

  • The frequent withdrawal of participating nations.
  • Groups of mostly two or three teams, arranged by region rather than drawn.
  • Host nation Italy forced to qualify for their own tournament in 1934.
  • Automatic ’34 qualification for Czechoslovakia from a group of two as a result the Polish government’s denial of visas for their own team to travel.
  • ’38 qualifiers Group 1 containing four teams while the rest contained two or three.
  • The abandonment of games if teams had already mathematically qualified/could not qualify.
  • No British teams, who were currently on boycott of FIFA.
  • Egypt being the only African nation competing in either campaign, as most were not yet independent.
  • Participation of historical states such as pre-Soviet Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, the Irish Free State, the Second Spanish Republic (withdrawn by the ’38 qualifiers due to the Spanish Civil War), Palestine-British Mandate (made of Jewish and British players), Dutch Guiana and Dutch East Indies.

For no apparent reason, FIFA decided to take a break for the next two would-be tournaments. But with the World Cup set to return in 1950, new qualifiers were scheduled for ’49 and ’50. Some big countries would compete for the first time, while others disappeared. A world which had been ravaged and changed by World War 2 (economically and politically if not physically and emotionally) was entering a new era, and so with it came a new era for the tournament, and more importantly for us, it’s preliminary rounds.

***

The 1950 World Cup Qualifiers

Info:

  • The 12-Group system of the pre-WW2 years was reduced to 10.

  • Groups 1-6 were to be of (mostly) European composition, with Groups 7-9 for the Americas and Group 10 for Asia.

  • Groups were arranged roughly by region, not drawn, with mostly different qualifying rules for each.

  • Two points were awarded for a victory rather than three.

  • 14 qualifying spots were available, with both Brazil (upcoming hosts) and Italy (champions in 1938) qualifying automatically to make 16.

  • West Germany, East Germay and Japan – still occupied after World War 2 – were not permitted to take part.

  • Eastern Block states such Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Hungary refused to take part.

  • No African teams were participating; the only currently independent African states were Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Liberia.

  • Other notable countries to not take part included Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China.

  • The first game of qualifying (Sweden vs Ireland) was played on 02/06/1949, and the last game (Scotland vs England) on 15/04/1950, just over two months before the World Cup kicked-off.

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Group 1

England
Scotland
Wales
Ireland-UK

***For the purposes of continuity, we shall refer to the team now known as Northern Ireland as “Ireland-UK”, but at the time of 1950 qualifiers it was just “Ireland”. We will come back to this later, but for some in-depth information regarding why, check back to the Northern Ireland section of Politics On The Pitch #2.***

This campaign was the first that saw the appearance of the the UK sides in FIFA competition. All had been members of FIFA since near the beginning of the century (England-1905, Scotland and Wales-1910, Ireland-UK-1911), but tension was already evident following a brief period of withdrawal (1920-1924) in protest at the continued inclusion of the Central Powers following World War 1.

A “permanent” split from FIFA was to come for the four federations in 1928, as a result of the new FIFA law requiring football associations to pay compensation to their athletes who played at the upcoming Olympics football tournament. But time heals all wounds, rules change and stubborn people die. Some combination of these meant that the UK nations rejoined FIFA in 1946, perhaps now craving more global competition in the absence of the recently completed World War 2.

Two qualification spots were up for grabs, and since the groups weren’t randomly selected, Group 1 could also double as the 1949/50 British Home Nations tournament; an ingenious practice that would return for the 1954 qualifiers. The combination was dropped following the introduction of non-local qualifying groups for 1958, but it was delightfully revived for Euro 1968 when that competition went to a group based qualification system, incorporating both the 66/67 and 67/68 Home Nations tournaments.

With each team to play each other once, Ireland-UK vs Scotland kicked off the group in Belfast on October 1st with a classic old school scoreline of 2-8 to the visitors. This would have been the highest scoring game in the entire global qualifiers, except for the fact that England then beat Ireland-UK 9-2 at home the following month on front of nearly 70,000 fans in Manchester. Crowd shots displayed the alarmingly dangerous density of the audience, doubtless desperate for any entertainment in this post-War rebuilding era.


Disturbingly packed terrace at Maine Road for England vs Ireland-UK, November 1949.

As Wales didn’t fare much better than Ireland-UK – only scoring one goal in their three games – England traveled to Scotland on April 15th, 1950 with both sides assured of qualification following two wins each,  but with top-spot and the Home Nations championship yet to decide. A nauseating 133,300 spectators compressed into Glasgow’s Hampden Park, with footage showing one of (presumably) many fans who had to be stretchered away from the crush. Men in traditional dress playing saxophones, along with dancing girls (reminiscent of a Nazi Youth rally) also entertained the masses.


One fan is stretched away from the Hampden crush at Scotland vs England, April 1950..

Pre-match entertainment.

A 1-0 away win secured the honours for England, now destined for their first ever World Cup appearance. Scotland in the second qualifying position could have joined them, but declined the opportunity, apparently as they had vowed only to travel if they had won the Home Nations. As we shall see, it would be a reoccurring theme.

ENGLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 2

Turkey
Syria
Austria

Now you can see why we said Groups 1-6 were “mostly” European, as here we have what is basically the Middle Eastern qualifying section, plus Austria of course. The rules of this group, as well as Groups 3 and 4, were that the lesser two sides would play each other home and away in a First Round, before the winner would play the seeded team in the same way with a qualifying spot up for grabs.

Both Turkey and Syria were competing for the first time. Turkey had been set to take part in the 1934 qualifiers in Group 12, along with Egypt and Palestine-British Mandate, but had withdrawn before playing a game. Syria, meanwhile, had itself been a French Mandate until 1946 and were set to play their debut match as an independent state in the qualifiers.

In the first of many vintage Cold War black-ops moves, an American led military coup had overthrown the democratically elected Syrian government in  March, 1949. But eight months later, the country’s new authoritarian overlords will have been disappointed as their nation’s footballing representatives slumped to a 7-0 debut defeat at the hands of their Turkish neighbours to the north. Perhaps because the result was now a foregone conclusion – or due to the utter shame doubtlessly emanating from the generals – Syria withdrew before the return leg could be played, leaving Turkey to advance.


Players and officials at the end of Turkey's 7-0 defeat of Syria.

Turkey and Austria shared a history of their own, as the Ottoman Turks had been at the gates of Vienna more than once in the post-Middle Ages. This was probably not on the mind’s of their country’s footballers hundreds of years later, but even still the Austrians also withdrew before the games could be played.

Turkey thus qualified automatically for their first World Cup. Or that is they would have, if not for the fact that they TOO then withdraw. The Syrians were no doubt asking why the Turks couldn’t have just done this in the first place before humiliating them out of the competition.

NO QUALIFIER

***

Group 3

Yugoslavia
Israel
France

Here we have a group that doesn’t even pretend to be geographically logical, but would actually perhaps look like the beginning of a modern UEFA qualifying group if not for the fact that Yugoslavia doesn’t exist any more. France were World Cup veterans having competed at all three previous tournaments, with Yugoslavia also making an appearance as one of the few other European representatives at Uruguay 1930, and now becoming the first Socialist state in the continent to take part.

Like Syria, Israel was a newly sovereign post-WW2 nation having been created in 1948. The Israeli  national team debuted against the USA later that year, but can trace it’s footballing lineage back to the aforementioned Palestine-British Mandate who competed in the ’34 and ’38 qualifiers. Like in later years, it maybe made more sense not to place the Irealis in a group with some of their more hostile neighbors, with this perhaps explaining why Austria were in Group 2 instead of this group, and vice-versa for Israel.

The first round took place over August and September, 1949, and the obvious gulf in quality seen in Group 1 and 2 continued as Yugoslavia beat Israel 6-0 in Belgrade and 5-2 in Tel-Aviv. The Yugoslav’s following games against France in October would prove more evenly balanced as both games ended 1-1, and since this was not a modern two-legged affair (sensible tie-breaking mini-games such as extra-time and penalties were distant future dreams at this point, and players in the ’40s would have undoubtedly been too unfit to play another half an hour anyway), the only solution was for the two sides to play each other yet again in a play-off on neutral ground.


Unique stadium, Israel vs Yugoslavia.

Italian news reel reviewing France vs Yugoslavia with crowd in the background.

The deciding game took place in Florence in December, with Yugoslavia finally running out 3-2 winners and qualifying for their second World Cup. Classically, after all that, France were also offered a place in the finals but declined, rendering the previous 270 minutes of football utterly pointless.

YUGOSLAVIA QUALIFY

***

Group 4

Switzerland
Luxembourg
Belgium

Group 4 makes a little more sense geographically speaking, with the epic clash of central-west Europe’s richest, smallest, neutralist countries with long names in the first round. Compared to Groups 1-3 we finally get a bit of normality here, as all three countries had existed for some time before the qualifiers and would continue to exist to the present day.

On the pitch there was nothing too surprising either, as the Swiss picked up a 5-2 result at home in Zurich in June, 1949. Their advancement was sealed with a 3-2 win in Luxembourg, capital city of Luxembourg, in October. A nice, solid and dependable group so far, very relaxing compared to earlier. I have a good feeling that nothing can possibly go wrong.

But of course things would not be complete without a good-old withdrawal, and we get just that before another ball can be touched. Belgium had taken part in the first three World Cups, but the streak was broken through this self-imposed expulsion, graciously leaving Switzerland to qualify for their third successive tournament.

SWITZERLAND QUALIFY

***

Group 5

Sweden
Ireland
Finland

Group 5 was set to be a refreshingly straight-forward affair, comprising of a straight round robin of home and away matches between the three teams and the resulting top side qualifying for the World Cup. While Norway had competed in the 1938 qualifiers, there was no sign of them here, leaving Ireland to take what presumably would have been their spot in the token Nordic group (Denmark and Iceland had yet to take part).

“But wait” you exclaim, “another Ireland!?” Yes, here we have our second Ireland of the qualifying system. Of course this team is now referred to as the Republic of Ireland, but at this stage they were just known as “Ireland”, same as Ireland-UK  from Group 1. Ireland-UK – as the successor team of the “original Ireland” that had competed while Ireland was still fully under British rule – were still calling themselves “Ireland”, and in-fact selected players from all over the island, despite only claiming league jurisdiction over Northern Ireland.

Amazingly, some players who represented Ireland in Group 5 ALSO played for Ireland-UK in Group 1 (Ireland had also previously capped Ireland-UK capped players). Both teams also wore green shirts with near identical shamrock themed crests, adding to the uniquely confusing situation.

Anyway, back to the group, and as mentioned earlier Sweden defeated Ireland in the first game of the entire qualifying system with a 3-1 win in Stockholm in June. They followed this up with an 8-1 trouncing of Finland in October, this time in Malmö to shake things up. Ireland had also beaten the Finns 3-0 in Dublin in September, and the return fixture, eight days after the 8-1 game, saw a 1-1 draw in Helsinki.

At this point, the poor old Finns (for whom we harbour a particular affinity) saw the writing on the wall and in typically logical fashion withdrew from the group instead of facing their final, meaningless group game (and in doing so conserved energy as well as avoiding another possible thrashing on home soil). This left Ireland’s home game against Sweden in November as a virtual play-off to get to the World Cup, even though Finland’s premature exit meant Ireland would have played an extra game than Sweden. The Swedes ran out 3-1 winners, qualifying for their third successive World Cup having finished fourth at France ’38.


More pack terraces at Ireland vs Sweden in Dalymount Park.

Ireland would have to wait another 40 years to make it to the finals but this need not have been the case as, in the wake of all the withdrawals, they were in fact invited to take part anyway by FIFA. But off course money doesn’t grow on trees, especially in economically struggling, post-“Emergency” Ireland (as WW2 was known there) and the offer was turned down due to the traveling costs. This really raises the question: what was point in attempting to qualify in the first place, or were they just not thinking that far ahead?

SWEDEN QUALIFY

***

Group 6

Spain
Portugal

With their internal political issues well and truly resolved, a new Spain returned following their absence for 1938. Like the ’34 qualifiers they were placed in the “Iberian Group” with Portugal, with FIFA clearly deeming that one of the two simply needed to be at the World Cup.

In the previous version, Spain had breezed through with a 9-0 win at home propelling victory. This time Franco’s men didn’t score quite as many, but a 5-1 win in Madrid in April 1950 did basically the same job. Portugal at the time were in the midst of their own fascist dictatorship, or “corporatist authoritarian regime”, and they welcomed their peninsular pals to Lisbon eight days later. A 2-2 draw was played out allowing Spain to reach the finals as expected with little fuss.


Spain score the first of 5 goals against Portugal, on front of  a huge crowd.

Spain score the first in the 2-2 draw away to Portugal, in a ground devoid of side stand.

That is except for the fact that Portugal, of course, were then also invited to play at the World Cup, as a replacement for Turkey. And of course they declined, meaning all six European groups contained some sort of withdrawal or declination to play. This left FIFA throwing their hands up and shouting “Why do I even bother!” before bursting into tears, and then finally saying “fine then”, deciding to just leave the World Cup short of teams instead of inviting anyone else, dashing any last Luxembourgian hopes in the process.

SPAIN QUALIFY

***

Group 7

Bolivia
  Chile
Argentina

After the mess that was Europe, we now come to the Americas where things are always calmer and more settled. The three teams were set to play home and away, with the top two progressing to the final. Would a nice competitive group, played to completion with the winners going through and the losers definitively not going through, be too much to ask?

The answer is yes, as 1930 finalists Argentina withdrew leaving Bolivia and Chile (also both present in 1930) free to qualify automatically without a single second of football being played. Obviously their scheduled games to be played against each other were cancelled, as they would have been utterly fucking pointless.

BOLIVIA AND CHILE QUALIFY

***

Group 8

Uruguay
Paraguay
Ecuador
Peru

The intuitive among you (as well as those who look at nature and society in a deeper way and notice patterns) may well have already guessed the outcome of this group. And sure enough, Ecuador and Peru withdrew from the group faster than you can say “unstable puppet government propped up by the CIA”. They really could not wait to withdraw.

1930 champions Uruguay had boycotted the previous two tournaments, first in 1934 as an act of retribution against the European teams who had refused to travel to their home tournament in 1930, then along with Argentina in anger at FIFA’s decision to stage World Cup 1938 again in Europe rather then a return to South America. Paraguay had also made their only previous appearance in 1930. Both qualified again without a ball being kicked.

URUGUAY AND PARAGUAY QUALIFY

***

Group 9

USA
Mexico
Cuba

As with the British Home Nations tournament of Group 1, Group 9 also doubled as the 1949 North American Football Confederation Championship; the last time that competition would be played until 1990. However, unlike the Home Nations, all the matches would be played in a host nation – in this case Mexico – and all take place over the month of September 1949, more in lieu with a traditional tournament. The teams would play each other twice with the top two advancing to the World Cup, as well of course as North American Football Confederation Championship glory to the country on top.

The group was like the ill-fated Group 7 in that all teams had previously played at World Cups. Mexico had been statistically the worst team in their only appearance to date in 1930. The US had also taken part, both then and in ’34 where they replaced Mexico as poorest performing participant.

A pre-Castro Cuba can boast not just a finals appearance, but an oft-forgotten World Cup quarter final to their name in 1938. This is slightly less impressive when you remember that they only had to win one game to make the quater-finals, but slightly more impressive again by the fact that they drew 3-3 with Romania after extra time and then beat them 2-0 in a replay. However, the 8-0 drubbing received at the hands of Sweden in the quarter final itself does slightly take the shine off things.

Things didn’t go so well for Cuba this time though, as their only point of the Group came from a 1-1 draw with the US. The return game saw the Americans run out 5-2 winners. But the top side had not been in doubt since day one when hosts Mexico had destroyed the USA 6-0, and proceeded to put the same number past them when the sides would meet again while conceding their only two goals of the campaign. Comfortable 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Cuba, including on the last day of the group, gave Mexico the NAFC crown and qualification, along with the USA in second.

And there it is, finally after nine groups we have found one that was actually played to completion, and with the agreed upon rules adhered to through to the end. The real miracle here is the the Cuban revolution thankfully held off for a few years, for if it had happened in 1949 it would have undoubtedly disrupted the group.

MEXICO AND USA QUALIFY

***

Group 10

Burma
Indonesia
Philippines
India

Group 10 contained the only Asian side to have previously made a World Cup appearance in Indonesia, who played at the 1938 finals in their previous form of the Dutch East Indies. This feat is again made less impressive by the fact that they only reached said finals due the withdrawal (surprise, surprise) of their one opponent Japan. Tragically, after coming all the way to Europe for the World Cup, they were promptly beaten 6-0 by Hungary and sent straight home. Still, their name is in the history books. Well, their name when it was a different name.

India, meanwhile, had played their first game while still a British possession in 1938, and in 1948 had made their first appearance as an independent state. The Philippines had been around a surprisingly long time in comparison, with their first international dating back to 1913, but had not previously had the chance to qualify for a World Cup. Burma went into the qualifiers yet to take part in an international fixture of any sort.

And unfortunately this would remain the case, as wouldn’t you just know it, Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines all withdrew before the group drew could even take place. This left India to qualify by default in the one available spot, and you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

Except there is one last twist in the tale as India, true to these qualifiers to the very end, gave one final withdrawal. They powerfully withdrew from their default position of World Cup qualifier, amazingly with a view to prepare for the next Olympic games instead, proving that the World Cup was not exactly the global phenomenon it is today.

The infamous rumored reason had been that FIFA would not allow India to play barefoot at the World Cup, which seems too “sexy” of a story to be true and with more than a hint of racism. But while it apparently did not have a baring on their decision to pull out, they had in fact played barefoot to great effect at the 1948 Olympics, and would do so again at the 1952 edition.

NO QUALIFIER

***

Total Qualified Teams (13):

Bolivia

Brazil

Chile

England

Italy

Mexico

Paraguay

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United States

Uruguay

Yugoslavia

*

And there we have it, qualifying done and dusted. Out of the 32 teams that entered, 11 out of the originally intended 14 qualified to join the hosts and champions, 15 either withdrew during qualifying or declined an invitation to the finals, and 9 didn’t play a game at all. Fair to say a roaring success as far as this time period goes. As for the actual 1950 World Cup, well you’ll just have to Google that for now, as it’s a story for another day (we mean that rhetorically, there are currently no plans for us to cover the 1950 World Cup).

*****

 

What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #5 (Gallery)

We are back with another visually delicious gallery of the interesting sights and general old school greatness, that that at one point made football magic.

Classic post-communist/pre-modern ground with fence, Lithuania vs Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 1995:

Random mid-match pyro, Italy vs Portugal, World Cup Qualifier, 1993:

Plethora of reporters and other individuals at pitchside, Chile vs Uruguay, Copa America, 1983:

Classic graphics and sparsely covered terraces, Norway vs Denmark, friendly, 1986:

“…anyhow have a Winfield” and running track, Australia vs Israel, World Cup Qualifier, 1985:

“DAILY POST”, Wales vs Czechoslovakia, World Cup Qualifier, 1977:

“FALK”. Classic graphics, hoardings and stadium, Austria vs Brazil, friendly, 1973:

Communist-era athletics bowl, classic “R” graphic, sparsely covered terraces and seemingly recorded through a spy camera, Poland vs Greece, friendly, 1978: