Nothing to Lose: Scotland At The 1950 World Cup


Chapter 1: Stubbornness

“Nope, not happening in a million years and that's final!”

That’s was all what George Graham, Secretary of the SFA, would say to anyone when questioned if Scotland were going to play in the World Cup in Brazil later that year. He then says other various excuses why they team won’t go from reasons such as the bigger wages that were being offered to Scottish players in Brazil and Columbia leagues than at home to rather far more outrageous claims such as Hitler and the Nazis were hiding out in South America.

The truth being however was that FIFA, In honour of Britain’s status of creating the game, had offered the two top spots in that year’s Home Nations Championship to qualify for the Tournament and Graham had stated he’d only take the team to the World Cup Finals if they were British champions, unfortunately for them, a home defeat by England would see the English team get the top spot and the Scots getting second spot. Even though the Scots had still qualified for the world cup, Graham was sticking to his word of not going and thus announced to the higher ups at FIFA that Scotland would not take part in the World Cup.

In most situations after losing to the Auld Enemy, most Scottish supporters would start counting down to the next game to swear revenge on the English, but in these strange times the anger and rage was being directed towards the SFA and many English players being led by England captain Billy Wright pleaded to the SFA to allow their Scottish counterparts to join them on the trip to Brazil.

From him gazing out at of the window from his desk, he hears a knock on his door. “Enter,” Graham mutters with his gaze still fixed on the outside world.

“Good day, sir” says Robert Kirkwood, SFA treasurer, as he enters the room. “Fine day?”

“How I wish,” Graham replies sarcastically as Kirkwood sits down beside him. He finally takes his gaze off the window and looks over at the treasurer. “And losing to England isn’t really the main thing for once.”

“This World Cup,” Kirkwood replies. “Seems we aren’t hearing the end of it.”

Graham sighs and sinks back into his chair. “Bloody well right about that, it’s one thing that the team are willing to go and the English lads encouraging them, but it’s when our supporters start threating us to go to this…thing in Brazil. We’re like Panto villains right now and why does everyone think it’s that important?”

Kirkwood could see all this pressure is getting to the stubborn secretary and thinks of his next words carefully. “With all due respect sir, the Welsh and Irish agreed too that they’d only go to the World Cup if they were champions too, England weren’t part of the deal and would go regardless if I remember correctly?”

“Don’t think so,” Graham answered as he leaned back in his chair rubbing his forehead. “What are you getting at?”

Kirkwood then shows a small smile. “I’m saying that if England had finished second then they still would be packing their suitcases in this moment in time and getting ready to fly out to Brazil, makes us looks rather silly not doing this…for I say we should join them on that flight.” He pauses briefly as he then shows a serious expression. “I must also point out that there is quite a bit at stake for all of us in the Scottish FA that we should take this chance for good reason.”

Graham gives him a curious look. “How’d you mean?”

Kirkwood then fires off his idea. “I was speaking to Stanley Rous when our English friends came after Saturday’s game and word is that my place on the FIFA international board is in danger if we don’t go to Brazil.”

Graham, now interested leans forward in his chair. “…What else?”

“Stanley also stated that as secretary of the FA that he feels he could be the next FIFA president once Ivo Schricker retires after this World Cup and that Arthur Drewry, the England selector would get the chairman’s job.” Kirkwood now seems quite excited that he has at least gotten the SFA Secretary’s attention. “In conclusion, our English friends would be handing out favours to some damn fine jobs for us over the next few years…and that’s where you come in.”

“Like being higher up in FIFA?” Graham asks dumbfounded at this scheme.

“Oh, very much so,” Kirkwood nods. “Not to mention that Stanley believes this World Cup thing is going to be huge over the next few years and he says it would be an awful shame if we miss out on it, many of the big nations could be involved too.”

Graham now starts rubbing his chin in thought. “Don’t know, I’ve already said my word that we wouldn’t be going and if we changed our minds now, it would make me and everyone in these corridors here all look like right fools.”

“Not much so than what the players and the fans think of us in this moment in time?”

There is a long pause, Kirkwood has managed to pierce through Graham's stubborn armour.

Right…what’d you think about this whole World Cup malarkey anyway?” Graham asks.

Kirkwood now smiles. “In my view? I think this sounds like it’ll be a right good jolly outing for us and would be a wonderful idea. I forgot to mention too that Flavio Costa, the Brazil manager was also one of our guests on Saturday and has pleaded with me for you to change your mind because he says the Brazilians would love to have us over.”

“Aye…to take our players!” Graham replies darkly.

“Sir please!” Kirkwood pleads. “He had travelled all the way from South America just to beg with you to take this offer, please consider it, don’t make it feel like he had a wasted trip.”

Graham sighs once again and sinks into his chair, he clearly isn’t going to get out of this.

“I’ll let you think about it,” Kirkwood says and promptly leaves the room in the hope that just maybe, Scotland would be playing in Brazil.

On the other hand, Graham now turns his gaze back at the window and ponders what Kirkwood has said. He would now have to make a choice and the perhaps the future of the Scottish game lay in his hands.


About a week later, Scotland had played Switzerland in a friendly at home winning 3-1, but despite a good victory the discontent from the fans had become more vocal with them wanting to go to the World Cup. The Stubborn George Graham had been at the game and had seen first-hand the crowd throwing insults at him and other members of the SFA like rotten fruit. As he walked down one of the corridors of Hampden, he thought about it and interestingly he wasn’t trying to figure out another excuse of not going such as flight costs, wages and what not, but in truth about Robert Kirkwood’s position on the FIFA international board.

Although he’d admit that there were several characters in the SFA he’d have an axe to grind with and would've been happy to see the back off, Kirkwood was to him one of the few, if not the only, voice of reason in the Scottish Football Association and had a close friendship with him. If it was true that if Scotland were not to go and Kirkwood would lose his position, it would all be Graham’s stubbornness that would be his downfall and he would take all the blame. He didn’t want to be remembered throughout history as a villain and if this World Cup was to really take off and Scotland were to lose out on it, it would still be his fault. It seemed like there was no way out for him and that they would have to go out and do it.

“George!” Cried out a familiar voice. Graham turned around and saw Kirkwood running down the corridor with a worried look on his face.

“What’s the matter?” Graham asked.

Kirkwood then stopped running and looked at him straight dead in the eyes. “Listen, I don’t care if you say we don’t go to the World Cup, I’m afraid to say we have too or we’re in trouble.”

“You mean we lose our FIFA licence or something?” Graham asked visibly confused.

“No…it’s tickets.”

“What about them?”

Kirkwood then begins. “Well, it would appear that for some time now of the discrepancy between the number of match tickets we put out for sale for the public and the number of them printed. After some looking into it, it appears that more than 6,000 out of 134,000 tickets for the England game that were printed were not passed on for general sale.”

Graham now looks worried. “That’s a hell of a lot of money lost for the association, but surely the cup finals and international matches can cover it, right?”

“Sadly not,” Kirkwood corrects shaking his head, “It’s the same for them too for losing money, in fact it’s been happening for quite a while now and we’ve been blind to it all this time.”

“God almighty,” Graham groans. If he already didn’t have an axe to grind with anyone in the SFA, he surely had a bigger one to grind now. “So, what does the World Cup got to do with this then?”

“Simple really,” Kirkwood replies, “we go to Brazil not just to play, but claw most of our lost revenue…it is our only hope I’m afraid.”

A long silence hangs in the air in that corridor with the SFA secretary thinking it over. There was nowhere to go, he would look foolish after all that he had said before, but with money woes within the SFA, he has to do something. After what feels like a century, the stubborn George Graham now says perhaps one of the most famous words ever stated in Scottish football folklore.

“Fine, we go…just let me get me dinner first.”

Chapter 2: Like Something Out Of Disney

To say most Scottish supporters, hearing the sudden announcement from George Graham and the SFA that Scotland would now be playing at the World Cup were more than surprised would be an understatement. There was much joy from both the players and fans that Scotland team would be making its first steps in the World Cup and most of the England players seemed happy that their counterparts would be joining them on this voyage into the unknown that was a place where no British international side had ever been before.

There also much relief from the FIFA ranks that Scotland would be joining as it been a headache with nations dropping out such as Turkey due to financial problems at home and the cost of travelling to Brazil and some rather strange ones with India withdrawing due to the fact they wanted to play barefooted and weren’t allowed and Austria not going because apparently the team wasn’t experienced enough. Scotland would be placed in Group 4 alongside France, Bolivia and former world champions Uruguay. But even after the draw was made, France withdrew due to the cost of the amount of traveling that would be required in the group. In the end, only 14 teams would play at this world cup.

With the cost of travelling in mind, the SFA and FA had agreed to share the cost of flying for to the various stadiums around the large country and both national teams would share the transatlantic flight to South America. Prior before leaving London, they were given a grand send off to wish them well on their endeavour, but all those players wanted was to get there. Even as the plane began to descend into Rio, the Scottish players still felt a sense of disbelief that against all the odds, they had somehow made it. The players, staff of both football associations, journislists and various hangers on all look down from their windows as the plane circles above the Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro with Sugar Loaf Mountain jutting out and the world famous Copacabana beach seemingly stretching out for miles.

“It’s like something out of Disney,” Billy Wright commented on how much of a far cry it all was from the post war industrial grime back home.

“Aye,” George Young replies looking out of his window. “It also Disnae make sense how we got here.”

Much laughter from many on board at Young’s comment, despite how long the trip has been, it’s certainly had the feel of a good old Jolly Boys Outing with much banter going on. Eventually the plane lands at Rio and as soon as both teams get off the plane, pandemonium breaks out from the locals welcoming the teams, it seems the build and excitement for the World Cup has reached fever pitch when the British teams arrived as journalists accommodating the teams note. As they enter the terminal building and greeted by the excited and happy crowds, George Graham was taken aback by the warm welcome they’d received and thought back to the joke on the plane that it was like something out of Disney, Graham had now begun to think he’d walked into a Disney film with how colourful everything was.

As he starts to feel the player’s excitement running through him, he begins to wonder if there is more to this World Cup than he originally must’ve thought of. Compared to the run down and dour colours and nature of Glasgow and most of Scotland in the central belt, everything here in Brazil just feels so alive and vibrant and the Scottish contingent with their suits and ties look quite out of place here.

Even though both teams are jetlagged, they still feel a sense of excitement of being in this city, Rio is making Glasgow look football crazy as a Home Counties Suburb.


The Scotland team prior to flying out to Brazil


At the Copacabana Palace Hotel on Rio’s seafront, George Graham is stunned at the atmosphere at a pre-tournament reception which includes many FIFA dignitaries, journalists, translators and various other characters of the football world in this one place. With him is Robert Kirkwood who seems well into the whole proceedings as he watches a group of young Brazilian ladies dancing for the party guests.

“I’ve got to say I haven’t felt so exhausted in a day,” Graham says to Kirkwood.

“Me too,” Kirkwood replies. “But you must agree this all quite something, these Brazilians know how to put on a good show.”

“I will agree there, but it seems strange seeing so many folk from other counties here. There is a buzz I’ll say that.”

Kirkwood looks back at him with a smile. “Indeed, you can tell there is something special about this World Cup and being part of it.”

Though he won’t admit it, Graham secretly is starting to agree with his treasurer.

The next day, both teams are invited the British embassy for thankfully a much more relaxed affair led by British ambassador Sir Nigel Ronald. Prior before the evening is finished, he gives both teams a speech. “Like many back in Britain, I can only give my best regards for the both of you. After chatting with most of you, I can agree that you are all a fine bunch of chaps and I trust that one of you at least will do the right thing and win. A win for either team will be a victory for Britain, makes us all proud.” Upon hearing those words, it only just becomes apparent how big the World Cup really is. Being British champion is one thing and that would seem good enough for anyone, but to become champions of the World...


Scotland’s first match of the World Cup would be against Bolivia up in the Adelmar da Costa Carvalho Stadium in Recife and two days prior to that game comes the press meeting with reporters regarding the line ups, they need to file in the team line ups if British newspapers are to print them the next day. Graham along with Walter Johnstone and John Park, the selection community chairman and co-selector repeatedly, inform the press. When the stubborn Secretary of the SFA is asked by one of the pressmen about the team’s chances on winning the World Cup, he smiles for the first time in a long time and says bluntly, “No danger, it’s our first time here so thus, we’ve nothing to lose.”

After the press conference, Graham catches up with Kirkwood who tells him about the new lucrative finaces that this World Cup has on offer for the participating nations. “That much?!” George Graham exclaims in shock over what Brazil received in their game.

“£51,000 made from only just Brazil’s first match,” Kirkwood replies who gazes at the FIFA news bulletin he’s reading from his hands.

“Do you think we get something for our games?” Graham questions with ideas already starting to fly into his head.

“If we get big crowds, I don’t see why not.” Kirkwood answers thoughtfully, though he almost swears he sees the secretary’s eyes light up, the first time he’s seen his colleague like that in many weeks.

“Well then, let’s hope we can get some of that in our pockets—Err, I mean the treasury…” Graham see’s Kirkwood looking somewhat confused as his statement and before the treasurer can reply, Graham heads off to meet more members of staff of the SFA to tell them the news, kicking himself for letting his mouth get in the way.


With just ten minutes till kick-off, Graham enters the dressing room and see’s the players readying themselves for the game. Some of them are tying shoelaces and others sitting still looking rather nervous of a game into the unknown that is unlike anything they've played in. Billy Steel is jogging on the spot and George Young, the captain, is going around giving the players given them final words of encouragement.

Neither of them all notices Graham has entered the room, that is until Alex Forbes notices him. “Lads!” The Arsenal winger calls to his teammates who all see who it is and all promptly gives Graham their attention.

The SFA Secretary now clasps and rubs his hands together, the players all see he is looking rather uncharitably cheerful for once. “Right then, today’s the day of a big game, our first game at this World Cup. Now I know you’re all doing well and we’re all wanting to win, right?”

“That’s the idea of football, right?” Billy Liddell interrupts, which the players chuckling which thankfully relaxes some of the tenser players there.

“Aye, aye whatever,” Graham mutters in slight embarrassment at getting caught out before getting back on topic. “All I’m here to say is you’re all representing Scotland, playing for the shirt, and I want you all to go out there and make us proud and do the business against Uruguay.”

“It’s Bolivia,” Billy Steel interrupts.

“What?” Graham asks.

“It’s Bolivia we’re playing, not Uruguay,” George Young adds.

“…Aye that lot, good luck out there,” Graham rambles before turning to leave the dressing room muttering to himself. “Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay…they all sound the same.”

Soon as he leaves more laughter from the players follows and George Graham has managed to relax the players, though probably not how he would like to remember. “Come on lads let’s go!” Billy Steel calls out to his teammates as they head off to play.

Sunday 25th June 1950 would be historic in Scottish football as the Scotland team would play in a World Cup match for the first time. Their opponents would be Bolivia, making their return to the World Cup since the very first one back in 1930. In the stadium in Recife there is a crowd of just under ten thousand, made of curious locals along with several SFA staff sitting with their families as the two teams walk out. The Stadium itself, the Adelmar da Costa Carvalho, is a large contrast to the Maracanã which the Scots and English teams visited after arriving in Rio to find only goodness knows how many workers climbing all over the structure trying to get it finished in time for the start of the tournament. Speaking of which, for what Graham might’ve thought that Hampden Park and Wembley were untouchable as holy grounds for the game, even he would have to admit that the Maracanã would give the two grounds a run for their money…if it had been finished that is.

Recife is very different, a basic ground that has been hurriedly done up to cope for the World Cup with nothing fancy to it. On the side-lines are cylinders of oxygen on standby if the temperature gets too hot during the game. (“Is this a football match or a hospital?!” Graham says to his colleagues as he notices this.)

The game kicks off and the Bolivians immediately get into the Scots’ face while passing the ball round swiftly. Celestino Algaranaz deceives Sammy Cox and fires the ball which only just passes the left-hand goal post, already five minutes in and the Scots are being pushed around.

The Bolivians are clearly the better team in this opening half and it’s only thanks to the Iron Curtain defence of Rangers players to the national side that have kept the South American team from scoring. Another cause of concern is the Scottish team’s heavy cotton kit which it not doing them in favours in the searing heat, during brief halts in the game, the Scottish players resist the urge to wipe their kits that could make them insane from the temperature. Though on an amusing note, the SFA party are doing not any better with majority of them still wearing their suits and ties sweating like a waterfall and all red in the face from rather embarrassing sunburns, many of them start using their match programs as makeshift fans, clearly, they’re not in Glasgow anymore.

Then completely out the run of play in the thirty eighth minute, Bobby Evans fires a highball from the Scotland half over to Billy Liddell which, after a little shimmy past Defender Antonio Greco, volleys the ball into the bottom right of the net past Goalkeeper Vicente Arraya who just fails to get a hand on it. The Scots are 1-0 up and the Liverpool player who becomes the first Scot to score a goal in the World Cup. The Bolivians feeling frustrated of losing a goal after doing so well in the game start playing rougher against the Scots, who in turn just can’t quite click into their game. The end of the first half finally comes with the Scots still leading, however it hasn’t been a vintage performance by any means.


“I’m dying out there,” Bobby Campbell mutters leaning back against the dressing room wall while sitting down with his shirt off. Many of his fellow countrymen are all feeling the same too with the heat, the hot Brazilian climate is a shock to the system that is unlike anything they've been through before. George Graham looks at his forward line of Allan Brown, Billy Liddel, Lawrie Reilly, Billy Steel and Bobby Campbell and can tell neither of them are happy with how things are going. “Things aren’t working with the forwards,” he speaks up.

George Young looks up at Graham. “If I’m allowed to say something here, if you hadn’t chopping and changing team around, we could’ve been playing better ye ken.”

The Secretary glares at the Scotland captain and several of the players feel like he’ll start to go on a rant to him, not to mention he doesn’t look well with a sunburnt face that could honestly be mistaken for him being red in the face from seething rage. “How about a drink?” Steel calls out as he brings out a bottle of golden liquid from his kitbag and presents it to Graham. “I’ve hear this stuff is call Cachaça or something by the locals, supposed to be very good and might help you concentrate.”

To everyone’s surprise, Graham accepts the offer and takes the drink. “Aye, thank ye, very kind of you, it can possibly help me concentrate—” But before he knows it as he starts drinking it, he is suddenly manoeuvred out of the dressing room by Brown and Steel and before he can get back at them, the team lock the door on the inside and leave the SFA secretary speechless, had they planned this?

He begins banging on the door to get back in and yells possibly every known vile bit of words known in the English language, while inside, Young takes charge and starts planning out the team's tactics for the next half.


The teams return for the second half with Scots having a game plan that works wonders. The Bolivians discover their attacks are cut off by the sharp tackling from the Scottish wing-halves and the Scots start to press further up the field. Clearly it is a classic game of two halves in which the Scots start to boss the match this time round. Unlike the Bolivians who had more possession but better chances, the Scots are the same but only this time, they take their chances. Allan Brown, in the fifty third minute, picks up the ball midway inside the Bolivian half and from a long way out fires in a shot which goes completely pass the unfortunate keeper and right into the back of the net.

The Scots, now leading 2-0, finally starting to get into their attacking style. The SFA officials are seemingly enjoying from what they are seeing except for Graham who doesn’t say anything to his colleagues about the ‘mutiny’ in the dressing room, after all, if they win then everything is alright.

With just eight minutes of play remaining, the Scots are breathing all over the South Americans and they are awarded a corner, the ball then lands in the penalty box and after a scuffle between players trying to get the ball, Billy Liddell gets his foot on the ball and fires it right between the keeper’s knees to put the Bolivians out of their misery. Scotland’s first game at the World Cup ends in a 3-0 victory, but it’s far from over with the Scots next to lock horns with the former World Champions, Uruguay.

Chapter 3: Regrets

Had the original plan of four teams in the group had gone to plan, Scotland in that moment in time would’ve been getting ready to face of France, however with the French pulling out due to finical concerns, the Scots just had to face off Uruguay next which gives them the luxury of a few days off to prepare and relax for their next fixture. They soon switch base from Recife to Sao Paulo and the team make the most of their time off to become more accustomed to the Brazilian culture and although the team are all in good spirts, Graham has never really gotten over the mutiny the players did for him in last game when Young took charge. Despite the win, Graham was on the verge of sending many of the players back home, however Kirkwood intervened explaining that each one in that team was crucial in getting that result and that sending anyone back would be damaging to the team, not to mention that the more games Scotland plays, especially if they get to the Final Round, then the financial benefits for the SFA would be huge.

Hearing this, Graham reluctantly agrees not to send anyone home and quite wisely none of the players are told about the SFA secretary’s original plans.


“Can’t believe you were helping them out!” Billy Steel calls out the Scotland captain, who sits there looking calm. Although the Scotland team is making a day out at the Estadio do Pacaembu watching Brazil take on Switzerland, all the team can really think about is George Young’s apparent phone call with England captain, Billy Wright, over their next game against the USA the following day.

“How was I helping them?” Young spoke with some annoyance. “I was only saying to him not to take them lightly, you know them being arrogant, right?”

“I would be surprised if actually took your advice,” Willie Bauld remarks. “Sometimes the best time to play them is when they’re acting like that.

Thankfully all further talks on the matter are forgotten about as Brazil game begins, though the result isn’t what the locals want as Switzerland manage to equalise towards the end with the game ending 2-2 and throws into question Brazil’s chances of getting into the next round. The anger dished out by the locals is something the Scotland team has never seen this mental before with thrown fireworks being chucked on to the pitch as well as some people who invade the pitch to angrily to confront the players. The Scotland players and staff leave with the stadium engulfed in a plume of yellow smoke with what sounds like a canon being fired. From this, it makes a loss in Glasgow to England seem gentle and makes them think just how much passion football fans in other counties love their football.

However, the game also fills the players with confidence that with the memory of beating the Swiss a few months back that perhaps the team can possibly pull of an upset. While back at the hotel and enjoying the sun, they are greeted to the sight of something neither player could possibly see. Kirkwood and Graham, whom the latter looks rather uncomfortable, are not dressed in the conservative minded suits and ties the SFA staff seem to wear everywhere they go but instead, the two men are dressed in flamboyant coloured shirts and shorts. The players can't help but make the most of this moment. "Is that who I think it is?" Alec Forbes chuckles while Billy Steel adds, "It's the Blackpool Illuminations, no wait, it's George!" All of this is good fun and the players are clearly relaxed.

The next day however ends with George Young regretting make his call to Billy Wright after hearing England have beaten the USA 2-1, a game in which the USA took a shock lead in the thirty eighth minute before two late goals scored by Roy Bentley in the eighty third and eighty sixth minute of the game help the English avoid an embarrassing loss. Why this may sound like nothing special for the Scots as if results go both team’s ways and get into the second round, they could potentially be challenging each other to become FIFA World Champions, the fact is in a post-match interview, Wright stated that he had shared a phone call with Young and took some of his advice to heart saying that without talk of not giving in that the Scotland captain had mentioned, they could’ve been a much poorer team. As expected, Young gets a stick from his teammates with the potential possibly that England could become World Champions all thanks to him.

That same day however then ends with some more concerning issues with the Uruguay vs. Bolivia game at the Independencia Stadium, which the team watches ends with the players leaving the stadium very muted for they witness Uruguay destroy Bolivia 8-0. All the team can do now is hope they don’t receive a heavy defeat like that, it would be make or break on the 2nd July when it would be win or bust.


The Uruguay team prior before their game with Scotland
The final game for the forth group on the 2nd July would be now or never for the Scots as they prepared to face off the team some of the players were dreading to face, Uruguay. The Independencia Stadium has a rather vocal crowd as there are one or two expat Scots living in Brazil either waving a Saltire flag or wearing a tammy hat, however they are overwhelmed by the Uruguayan fans that make the game feel like a home game for them. Nonetheless, the two teams are greeted as they make their way on to the pitch. While the Uruguayans had looked rather relaxed and ready, no doubt confident after their thumping resulting of Bolivia, the Scottish players could only glance over at the South Americans and could see their kits are very different to their own. Their strips look lightweight in contrast to the Scottish team’s heavy cotton tops and their boots are like carpet slippers while the Scots have ones which have stiff leather up the ankle, a steel plate in the sole and a bulbous toecap. Boots that quite honestly were never designed for comfort nor speed and as the players lined up on the field, one by one of the Scottish players begin to think that maybe the British game isn’t perhaps the greatest in the world.

In one section of the crowd, the SFA dignitaries and families of the players all sit together all hoping for something for the Scottish team to get a win from this, a draw is not enough thanks to Uruguay’s goal difference thanks to Bolivia, they must simply win to get to the Final Round.

“I really think we should be redesigning our kits for both national and domestic games,” Kirkwood points out Graham, who is once again dressed in his suit and waving a makeshift fan to keep cool.

“I hate to say, but you have a point,” Graham sighs. “I was hearing the same from our English friends about the other teams with improved kits. Makes you feel a bit embarrassed when you realise how backwards we are compared to the rest of the World after we keep going on about how we're the best in the world.”

Kirkwood feels quite sorry for him, it isn’t always he sees Graham looking so deflated like that. However, he hasn’t got any time to look over at the Secretary as the referee whistles for Kick off.

The start of the game begins quite promisingly for Scotland as they don’t fall into the same trap as they did against Bolivia with them being attacked from the get go, instead they keep the South Americans back from getting anyway near the penalty box. After ten minutes, it seems that Young’s plans of holding the ball from the Uruguayans is working. Then in the twenty third minute, Eusebio Tejera runs with the ball down on the left, Willie Woodburn fails to stop him and even with three Scottish players trying to defend the penalty box, Tejera does a classic one-two hit by lobbing over to Omar Miguez on the right. The ball bounces off his knee, but he keeps control of it and before Sammy Cox can stop him, Miguez sends a left foot volley into the top back left hand corner of the net where poor Scottish Goalkeeper, Jimmy Cowan, has no chance of getting a hand on it. The South Americans lead by 1-0 and their traveling supporters celebrate the goal.

Despite this set back, George Young barks orders out to the rest of the team to keep to their game plan, which in all fairness other than that brief break in with the goal has been working a treat. The Scots keep their game up and although Uruguay seem to be the better team, Scotland have been getting many good chances and sitting up in the crowds, Graham must wonder if perhaps they can get lucky here.

Then in the thirty first minute, Willie Bauld decides to take a chance by chipping the ball over some of the Uruguay defenders and the Goalkeeper miscalculates where it’ll land and falls back only just to witness the ball rolling into the back of the net, much to the dismay of all the Uruguayans in the stadium. It is now 1-1 and the SFA officials, the small number of Scots scattered in the stadium, all celebrate thinking that the impossible might just happen and Graham almost has a heart attack at seeing how they have managed to get back on level terms. The game itself from then on up until the end of the first half becomes more even with both teams now playing hammer and tongs and end to end action to get another goal, the crowd are all certainly getting their money’s worth. Finally, the first half ends, and the Scottish players trudge off feeling tired from the frantic game and know they have a lot to do still.


After meeting with the players in the dressing room, the meeting between Graham and the Scotland team doesn’t last that long and thankfully he isn’t pushed out of the door as all that is mentioned is words of encouragement to carry on what they were doing before. Soon the teams come out and prepare for the second half. This time the Scots take the South Americans by surprise and start holding more possession of the ball and in the forty eighth minute, Billy Steel with a pass from Bauld gives an almighty kick for the goal, but the ball sadly just goes wide and Steel is left with his hands on his head for missing what could’ve been a vital goal, even more so are the SFA crowd with Graham holding his breath as it nearly went in.

“They’re trying to bloody well kill me!” He calls out to Kirkwood, who chuckles.

“You can’t deny they are putting on a fine show for us,” Kirkwood replies.

A few minutes go by and things become a bit more settled, though the Uruguayan supporters aren’t happy at the Scots starting to take the advantage with some starting to throw various bits of debris onto the pitch, though the Scottish players briefly glance up and see the odd Saltire flying in the crowd which gives them little bouts of confidence that they really have nothing to lose.

In the sixty third minute, Young has managed to take back the ball off Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela but before he can find a player to pass to, the ball is suddenly whipped off his feet by Alcides Ghiggia. The Right Winger makes a mad dash with the ball and such lightning speed, those boots really helping them, does a cheeky fake shot on goal which catches Cowan off balance and before he can get up, Ghiggia fires his shot on target into the bottom left of the net to his side 2-1 up. Poor Cowan slams the ground with his fists in frustration before Cox can come over to help the Goalkeeper back on his feet again. The celebrations for the goal are greeted with the sight of blue smoke and fireworks being launched from the crowd and the Scottish players find it to be difficult to play in with the smoke drifting onto the pitch. From this point onwards, the Uruguayan crowd are making all the noise knowing that they are close from reaching the Final Stage of the World Cup, equally the goal has damaged the confidence of the Scottish team and more fouls and tackles start to take place.

Young is given a tackle and much to his annoyance, the referee waves play on and begins to wonder if this will be one of these days for them.

Finally, in the seventy sixth minute, Miguez threatens the Scots yet again and this time after dancing around several of Scottish defenders, he gets towards the penalty box and volleys a long ball into the top right of the net to put them up 3-1 and their supporters on Cloud Nine. The game wheezes along with the Scotland players trying to prevent the game getting worse for them which to their credit they do just that and the final whistle is blown with the South Americans topping the group and putting the Scots out of the World Cup.


Results of Group 4


Final standings for Group 4

Despite failing to reach the Final Stage of the World Cup, the Scots didn’t have anything to lose in their first World Cup adventure. Also, they had the benefit of staying a bit longer in Brazil and enjoy some wonderful hospitality watching the rest of the tournament, though the reason for this as England had reached the Final Stage and they had the agreement to share the flight costs with their English counterparts when it would be time to go home. So, in some ways, England was doing some of the Scots a favour in making the most out of this trip.

After a 1-0 victory against Spain in their final group match which helps them to top the group (winning all three games in the progress) and progressing to the last four in which English confidence is cranked up when they are grouped in with Brazil, Sweden and Uruguay. The latter team is the first team they take on which ends in a 2-2 draw which England lead 2-1 for most of it before the South Americans brought the game back level, however England’s next game against host Brazil would prove to be a disaster as they would be ripped apart in a 4-1 defeat. The game itself would be a disappointment for most neutrals as many were hoping England vs Brazil would be an exciting match up of the two best teams at the World Cup, only to end in a one-sided affair which affectedly killed England’s World Cup chances, much to the relief of a certain Scottish captain.

However, pride was restored in their final match with Sweden in which a Stan Mortensen double would see England win 2-1 and claim the third-place spot. For their first World Cup, they hadn’t done too badly and both Scottish and English parties would have to leave the day after the tournament had concluded not because as was it for the World Cup, but that all of Brazil was in state of mourning after losing the World Cup to Uruguay in their final match.

It would quite a contrast to when the teams arrived in Rio how everything was all exciting and thrilling, now the city was like a morgue and the two teams and their respected staff members couldn’t help but feel sorry for their hosts’ big loss who had pulled out all the stops to make this a wonderful tournament, only to end on a sad note. An hour into their transatlantic flight back to Britain, Kirkwood is reading through some notes on the SFA’s finical situation and smiles. He and George Graham are both happy at the choice to go to Brazil that not only a division of the profits from the World Cup will end up in Scotland, but that their positions with FIFA are secure and he glances up seeing Graham and his English counterpart Stanley Rous happily exchanging words with each other, it makes him think that their positions in FIFA could become greater, no doubt with the real prospect of Rous becoming the next FIFA president.

He isn’t sure what they are talking about exactly, however Kirkwood does know that gaining qualification for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland is a must, the players and staff have been captivated by the sights, smells and atmosphere of the occasion and with the next one being closer to home, there is healthy appetite to get back to the World Cup soon as possible.

The two secretaries discuss at first matters on how their lives are back home and the experiences they’ve seen at the Tournament and what can be done to improve their national sides’ performances. The two men haven’t even stopped talking since the plane took off and several players from both teams’ exchange glances at them wondering what they are planning, finally both men get up and walk towards the front of the plane and many voices becoming hushed as they players and staff members begin to think that a speech is about to take place, several journalists on the plane hurriedly get out their notebooks preparing to write words down, realising that potential big plans are about to be revealed.

After a dramatic silence for about a few seconds, Graham breaks the silence. “Gentlemen, our adventure at this World Cup is at in end and although we didn’t win what we set out to do, we can all agree that it has opened our horizons that there is a bigger world out there rather than the British Championship.”

“Alas,” Rous added. “It has been a learning curve for both our teams here and it is important we take the things we’ve seen from other teams and implement them for our national game. I suspect many of our boys here can agree that our kits were old fashion in comparison with some other teams out there.”

Many players can be heard saying ‘Yeah’ and ‘Hear-Hear’.

Graham then takes over. “I will apologise on my behalf of the SFA for my reluctance to take the team out to Brazil and thinking our main aim was simply to beat England and become British champions.” He pauses briefly to glance over at Rous with a wry grin. “But now, me and Stanley have been discussion over that this World Cup thing could become the future of the game and we’re all sure as hell that we can’t be missing out on this if we’re to remain top dog in football!”

More agreement from the players can be heard before Rous carries on. “No doubt our Welsh and Irish friends will be keen to know what we have experienced and that they be wanting to join us for future endeavours at the World Cup…it’ll be a wonderful sight to see the four British teams out there to show the world that we all mean business. But, we must start from somewhere and both me and Mr. Graham have agreed that the British game will need to adapt for the future and that when the next World Cup rolls around, we will surely be a match for anyone…let’s go forth for victory!”

The patriotic speech from both men is greeted with thunderous approval by everyone on the plane, knowing that the future is hopefully for all. They may have had nothing to lose when they first came to Brazil, but next time, they’ll have all to play for.

The End

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