Walter Bahr, holding a young girl at a 1950 World Cup reunion in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1987, scored a goal that helped the U.S. reach that World Cup many years ago. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
With the United States and Mexico looking ahead to for their international friendly in Nashville, Tenn. Sept. 11, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, we journey back to to a couple of games in 1949.
How’s this for a happy ending?
The United States lost both its matches to host Mexico in qualifying for the 1950 World Cup and recorded only a 1-2-1 record, but still booked a spot in Brazil anyway because the Americans overcame Cuba in their other two matches.
Canada was invited to the tournament but chose not to compete. This event was held back in the day when the World Cup was nowhere near the World Cup as we know it today. So, trying to qualify wasn’t necessarily a high priority at the time.
The competition officially was called the North American Football Confederation Championship as all games were played at then state of the art (built in 1947) Estadio Olímpico de la Ciudad de los Deportes (now called Estadio Azul, home of Cruz Azul) in Mexico City in 1949.
In the first game of the tournament, El Tri rolled over the USA, 6-0, scoring three goals in each half Sept. 4. After Antonio Flores (20th minute) and Luis Luna (30th minute) tallied, Luis de la Fuente recorded a natural hat-trick, connecting in the 37th, 55th and 58th minutes. Carlos Septien closed out the slaughter with a goal five minutes from time.
“They got a penalty,” U.S. forward Jack Hynes said several years ago. “They didn’t take it. They rolled it to the goalie. It was a gesture. I didn’t like it . . . We were outclassed, completely outclassed.”
Several players who pulled off that historic 1-0 upset of England in the World Cup participated in these qualifiers. The list included goalkeeper Frank Borghi, Walter Bahr, Charlie Colombo, Frank Wallace and John Souza.
After playing the Cubans to a 1-1 draw before 54,500 Sept. 14, the Americans took yet another beating by the hosts, falling 6-2. At least this time the managed to find the back of the net on goals by Souza (52nd minute) and Ben Wattman (90th).
For the Mexicans, Horacio Casarin connected for a hat-trick via goals in the 23rd, 41st and 76th minutes after Hector Ortiz had struck pay dirt in the 14th minute. De la Fuente (47th minute) and Mario Ochoa (89th minute) added goals.
The USA rebounded with a 5-2 thrashing of Cuba Sept. 21.
The Americans were helped by the fact the Caribbean side used its No. 2 goalkeeper as Pete Matevich secured a brace and Souza, Wallace and Bahr tallied one goal apiece.
An interesting side note: while the USA team did not know it had qualified until it touched down on American soil, only to discover that the Mexicans defeated Cuba, 3-0, in the final game of the competition Sept. 25.
“We found out about the score after we returned home,” Hynes said. “We accepted it. You didn’t have TV. There were no replays. There were no movies [of the game back then]. You’re lucky to get pictures of the games.”