(Or if the World Cup had kept 1-11 numbering in force)
By Jim Hearson
You may have caught our previous work on renumbering FA Cup final winners as if 1-11 was still a thing (a la the early stages of the Coupe de France), so in the spirit of flogging a horse that’s somewhat under the weather (and to get some sweet, sweet SEO juice), we’re going to do the same for the World Cup after squad numbers were introduced in 1954. First stop: the Wankdorf Stadion.
1954: West Germany 3 Hungary 2
While a German victory over Hungary wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows today, back in the age of the Marvellous Magyars, it was something of a shock – especially after Puskas, Kocsis et al were 2-0 up within ten minutes.
A Hungarian victory certainly would’ve made this task easier, as they only had one missing 1-11 number, compared to West Germany’s five, all of whom are in their forward line… and two German defenders are already wearing 7 and 10…and 2 still needs to be assigned. Joy.
There’s no good place for 2, but as Halmut Rahn was wearing 12 on the right wing anyway, he can have it and pretend he’s a (very) attacking fullback. Much easier to do is give Hans Schäfer 11 at outside left and Ottmar Walter 9 at centre forward. That leaves inside forwards Max Morlock and Fritz Walter with the 4 and 5 shirts, and there’s no real rationale for either, so that one can be dealer’s choice.
1958: Brazil 5 Sweden 2
OK, well this one doesn’t look awfu… WHY IS THE KEEPER WEARING 3?! Yes, for reasons best known to themselves, Brazil gave their keepers 1 and 3 in 1958, which I’m sure we can all agree is utter madness. As a result, I’m going to do the only sensible thing possible – ignore it for as long as possible.
Starting from the front, Vava could easily take 9 from Zózimo (a defender, obviously), while Zito adopting 8 in central midfield (or right half as it was known back in the day) and Orlando taking 5 at centre-back are similarly logical decisions.
And that leaves us with 1. Well, sorry Nilton Santos – you win by the two sweetest words in the England language: de fault. It does make sense too – leftback in 1, goalie in 3; plus Santos’ actual number was 12, which is thoroughly reasonable for a goalkeeper to have, were they to have swapped IRL.
1962: Brazil 3 Czechoslovakia 1
I’m not sure what happened in the intervening four years, but Brazil suddenly realised how to do squad numbers properly. Gilmar in 1 instead of 3? Zozimo in 5 instead of 9? Hallelujah.
The alterations required are insultingly simple too – Mario Zagallo should wear 11 out on the left, while Vava should again take 9 and Amarildo would have to bear the heavy burden of the injured Pele’s 10.
1966: England 4 West Germany 2 (aet)
Common sense was still the order of the day in 1966 and this time it was the case for both teams, with West Germany only requiring one switch. We’re here for the winners though and, in case you hadn’t heard, that was England. They do well with keeping that particular fact quiet.
Just the two changes required by the hosts, and switching Martin Peters to 11 seems reasonable, given he was notionally more on the left of England’s wingless wonders, plus it was the number he generally wore at Norwich later in his career.
Giving Roger Hunt 8 is even more of a gimme, given that he frequently wore it for Liverpool and the fact that the number had been assigned to another forward in England’s squad, the legendary Jimmy Greaves.