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16 October 2014

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Scotland and the 1950 World Cup

Scotland team v Wales 1950


The story of Scotland's self-inflicted absence from the 1950 World Cup Finals in Brazil is almost incomprehensible to the modern-day football fan.

It is made all the more incredible on painful recollection of Scotland's subsequent World Cup traumas: at the 1974 Finals in West Germany when Scotland became the first country to be eliminated despite being undefeated; in Argentina four years later, when Scotland were 3-1 up against eventual runners-up Holland in their final first-round game, requiring just one more goal to go through…when Rep scored to kill off the country's hopes; in Spain in 1982 when Scotland were eliminated for the third time in a row on goal difference; worse, in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy when a goal from Brazil eight minutes from time in Scotland's last first-round match, and an improbable 2-1 win for Costa Rica over Sweden, meant either third-placed Scotland or Austria could still make it through to the knock-out stages if South Korea could hold out against Uruguay… Yes, you guessed it, the South Americans scored in injury time.

With that assortment of nightmares in mind, the toes curl and the chest tightens all the more when you realise just how Scotland failed to make the trip to Rio for the first World Cup Finals since the Second World War. Scotland, it can surely be argued, invented the World Cup exit.

The four British football associations - those of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales - had withdrawn from football's governing body FIFA back in 1920. There had been arguments over the suitability of playing teams with whom Britain had recently been at war, and more importantly a general feeling that there was now too much foreign influence in what was surely a British game!

This disassociation from FIFA meant that there was no participation in the trio of World Cups that were staged before the Second World War.

Pre-war, Scotland hadn't played many matches against continental teams, but the record stood at two defeats in 15 games. Interestingly, Scotland's first defeat abroad was by Austria in 1931, and it was that country that would give Scotland its first defeat by a non-British team at Hampden, a few months after the 1950 World Cup qualifying debacle.

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