June 29, 1950, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It’s the 1950 World Cup and on the field at Estádio Independência, you had two teams. On one side, it was England, who was one of the best teams in the world and making their World Cup debut. They were one of the favorites to win the whole tournament. On the other side, it was the United States, a team of part-time, semipro players who were mostly from St. Louis and had jobs on the side, like driving a hearse, serving as dishwashers and teachers, and working as mailmen. On paper, this match shouldn’t have been difficult for the Three Lions.
It was their 2nd match each in the group stage, with England beating Chile in their first match while the USMNT lost to Spain in theirs. Only the group winner would book their trip to the knockout stage, and England was sitting in the driver’s seat. Or, so they thought.
The first half began and England was on the attack initially. The pressure was on them to strike first, but they just couldn’t convert. Meanwhile, the Americans just tried to hang on until the time was right. They managed a couple shots, but it was the 37th minute that would change the course of history. Then, Walter Bahr took a shot from outside the box, and as the English goalkeeper moved to try and stop it, a missile came out of nowhere. That missile was the head of Joe Gaetjens, who dove from the penalty spot to redirect the ball just to the left of the keeper and into the back of the net. It was 1-0 to the USA, and the crowd was stunned.
The USMNT took that confidence and ran with it, and word throughout the crowd and the surrounding town soon spread about the Americans leading against the English. Despite all this, the English continued to apply pressure on the American defense throughout the second half. They had chances down the stretch to equalize, but it never happened. The final whistle blew, and the unthinkable had occurred. The scoreboard said it all: USA 1, England 0.
It’s considered the greatest upset in world soccer history, and news soon traveled throughout the world. The English had lost, and they lost to a team of dishwashers, school teachers and funeral parlor workers. The entire 1950 USMNT World Cup team was later inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and many of their names will forever live in the history of the game.