In Memoriam

Frank Borghi, Member of 1950 U.S. Squad, Dies at 89

The U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame goalkeeper put on a world-class display at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, holding England at bay in the Yanks' shocking 1-0 victory in Belo Horizonte.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 03, 2015
4:20 PM

FORMER UNITED STATES national team goalkeeper Frank Borghi died today at the age of 89.

Borghi was born in St. Louis and despite growing up a baseball player yet picked up soccer despite having no formal training in the sport. He rarely punted the ball and instead opted to use his baseball skills to throw the ball to his teammates after a save.

With all the talk about Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium, it was Borghi who put on one of the greatest World Cup goalkeeping performances ever in 1950 when the United States shocked England in Belo Horizonte. At the time England was the top team in the world and the United States' win was one of the biggest upsets of all time—even if the victory failed to make headlines back in the United States.

In the game, Borghi made several critical and spectacular saves. In the second minute he made a diving stop on Chelsea forward Roy Bentley. In the 32nd minute, he stopped a header by Preston North End winger Tom Finney. Then, in the 59th minute, with the United States up 1-0, he made a stop on Blackpool’s Stan Mortensen.

His final stop came in the 82nd minute when England’s Jimmy Mullen redirected a free kick that Borghi was able to use his quick reflexes to make another improbable save.

The game stunned onlookers. The initial attendance in Belo Horizonte was reported to be around 10,000 but as word around the city spread that the tournament favorites were on the ropes by a bunch of amateurs, swarms of people began arriving toward the end of the game to cheer on the underdog Americans. Borghi was one of the heroes of that team and his performance on that day is considered legendary. He was elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976 and following his retirement he returned to his hometown, operating a funeral home until retiring in 2003.

In addition to soccer, Borghi is also a hero off the field. He served proudly in World War II where he was enlisted as an Army medic in Europe. He earned two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his efforts saving American soldiers in the battle field. Borghi’s passing leaves Walter Bahr as the only surviving member of the 1950 U.S. World Cup team.

The United States national team hosts Panama this Sunday, and it would be great to see the National Soccer Federation honor his contributions, for both club and country, before the contest.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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