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16 October 2014

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Scotland and the 1950 World Cup

A year after the war ended, FIFA made a real effort to get Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales back playing international football. They offered the vice presidency of FIFA to an SFA member, as well as giving a place on the executive to the UK associations.

On top of that, FIFA offered the winners of the 1950 British International Championship a place in the World Cup Finals of that summer, thus guaranteeing the presence of one UK team in the Brazil. This was by far the most generous concession made to any country or set of football associations. Other nations had to play home and away matches in qualifying rounds. For the UK teams, though, they need only play three games. In Scotland's case, they had to play Northern Ireland away, then Wales and England at Hampden. In effect, then, the Home Internationals were doubling up as a World Cup qualifying group.

As if that wasn't enough, FIFA subsequently offered a World Cup invite to the runners-up in the 1949/50 Championships. Two teams out of four could be heading to Brazil!

Unbelievably, George Graham, secretary of the Scottish Football Association (SFA), declared that Scotland would only accept the FIFA invite if they went as British champions. Second place was no use: Scotland would have to top the group if they were to take part.

The first game went well, with Scotland thrashing Northern Ireland 8-2 at Windsor Park in front of 50,000 fans in October 1949. Henry Morris of East Fife scored a hat-trick on his international debut, yet incredibly he was never picked again for Scotland.

The second match, a month later, saw Scotland triumph 2-0 against Wales in Glasgow. A crowd of almost 74,000 watched as Celtic's John McPhail and Clyde's Alec Linwood got the goals to set up the decider with England. Despite scoring on his Scotland debut, Linwood, like Morris, was never to play again for Scotland.

Scotland in action v England 1950


England meanwhile had been doing even better than their old northern foes. They had trounced Northern Ireland 9-2 at Wembley and beaten Wales 4-1 away. However, goal difference at that time was not taken into account in the championships, so with Scotland and England each on four points, a draw would be enough for Scotland to become joint winners of the tournament and therefore they could go to Brazil as “champions”.

Sensibly, England, with second place at the very least guaranteed, had already told FIFA that they would be going, so the pressure was on Scotland for the deciding match, and 134,000 fans were there at Hampden on Saturday 15 April 1950 to remind them of it

The previous year Scotland had beaten England 3-1 at Wembley, though in 1948 the English had visited Hampden and left with a 2-0 victory. The match was likely to be close.

In 1950 there was no Scotland football manager per se; the international selection committee had the power to choose the team. Scotland's first manager, Andy Beattie, wasn't appointed until 1954. Club officials, who in effect ran the SFA, were used to choosing which players should play for their teams every Saturday, so there was no great outcry at the time for a manager to be appointed with the power to pick the team.

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