England 2-1 Argentina (partially found footage of international football match; 1951)

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Programme for the match.

Status: Partially Found

On 9th May 1951, England hosted Argentina for a friendly international football match held as part of the Festival of Britain. Occurring in front of 99,000 at the Empire Stadium, the hosts came from behind to narrowly edge out its South American opposition 2-1. It was the first encounter of what would become an intense feud between the two nations.


Before the match was held, England had never actually played a non-British side at Wembley.[1][2] It was also the first encounter between the two sides, with Argentina becoming the 27th nation to have faced England.[3][4] The match was the first of two England games to be held as part of the Festival of Britain.[5][6][2][3] According to The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury, negotiations between the English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh Football Associations had commenced in November 1949, with the English FA planning to extend the 1950-51 season by another two weeks in May to enable England's matches with foreign teams to commence.[7] The other England game was against Portugal on 19th May.[8] An England-France clash was proposed for 12th May, but never came to fruition during the Festival period.[9][10]

England boasted an unbeaten post-Second World War record against nations outside the United Kingdom and Ireland, with the team also wearing their iconic red shirts at Wembley for the first time.[5][1] However, Argentina were noted for being a strong side, having won several South American Championships during the 1940s and becoming the most decorated side in that competition.[1] As this was the first encounter between the sides, there was no rivalry to consider.[11][3][4] However, tensions would emerge following England's 1-0 win over Argentina in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, with some Argentines declaring the events of the match to be "El robo del siglo" ("The robbery of the century").[12][11] The feud intensified from the 1980s onwards, following the Falklands War in 1982, and Argentina's 2-1 win over England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, with Diego Maradona's famous "Hand of God" and "Goal of the Century" goals enabling the South American side to progress.[13][11] Other notable encounters include Argentina's 1998 FIFA World Cup penalty shootout victory, and England's group stage 1-0 win over Argentina at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which would contribute to the latter being knocked out at that stage.[14][15][11]

The Match

The match itself occurred on 9th May 1951, with 99,000 in-attendance at Empire Stadium, a record for an England match at the time.[3][16] The home side started strongly, courtesy of attacks from midfielder Henry Cockburn that were converted into shots from Stan Mortensen and Jack Milburn.[5][6] However, these early attacks were stopped by goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Ruglio, who was humorously nicknamed "Tarzan" for his eccentric saves and for having "swung" on the crossbar, which nevertheless proved effective at frustrating the hosts throughout much of the game.[2][5] He was also given the nickname "Lion of Wembley" for his overall performance.[4] After 18 minutes, Argentina launched its first major attack, with Ángel A. Labruna capitalising on a lapse of judgement from Billy Wright to pass the ball to Félix Loustau.[5] As Loustau ran towards goal, goalkeeper Bert Williams went out from his goal in anticipation.[1][5] This proved to be an error, however, as Loustau provided a cross for Mario Boye, who headed the ball past Williams to make it 1-0.[1][5][6][3][16] England controlled the first-half following this, but Rugilo held firm and stopped a strike from Milburn and three attempts by Harold Hassall.[5][6]

According to the FA Yearbook 1951-52, England's main problem was Argentina's "funnelled" defence, with the hosts being unfamiliar of the massed defensive positions from the South Americans.[6] A change of tactics with quicker passes saw England slowly begin to break through the defence, with Milburn exploiting gaps and contributing towards the home side's relentless siege during the first 15 minutes of the second-half.[5][6] Despite this, England still could not find a goal, with two of Milburn's chances being blocked by Ruglio, and another being cleared off the line by Ángel N Allegri.[5][6] However, the Three Lions dominated play throughout, and with just ten minutes of normal time remaining, finally equalised when a corner from Thomas Finney was converted into a header by Mortensen.[5][6][1][2][3][16] Six minutes later, Mortensen headered a Ramsey free-kick which enabled Milburn to slam the ball two yards into the Argentine goal.[5][6][1][2][3][16] The hosts held on to claim a narrow victory, with some reporters praising Argentina's "funnelled" defence and Rugilo for preventing England from winning via a bigger margin.[6][5][1][2][3][16] A rematch occurred in Buenos Aires a year later, but rain forced its abandonment after only 21 minutes.[1][4]


As detailed by Issue 1,434 of Radio Times, only the final thirty minutes of the game were televised live, with commentary provided by Jimmy Jewell.[17][18][19] This nevertheless meant that viewers saw both of England's goals.[3] Ultimately, the live coverage occurred in an era where telerecordings were rare, with video tape not being perfected until the late-1950s.[20][21] The encounter had a chance to be partially recorded, as the BBC had conducted an experiment telerecording of England's game with Italy on 30th November 1949.[20] However, the BBC confirmed that the only surviving match footage featuring live commentary from Jewell is the aforementioned England-Italy match, meaning the 30 minutes of the England-Argentina clash are now permanently missing.[20] Nevertheless, some footage of the match can be viewed on surviving newsreels.



British Pathé newsreel of the match.

Reuters newsreel of the match.

Another newsreel of the match.


See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Glen Isherwood's Wembley: The Complete Record summarising the encounter and noting England faced a non-British side at Wembley for the first time (report found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Norman Giller briefly summarising the match (report found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 England Football Online summarising the match and providing statistics of it. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Clarin noting Ruglio was nicknamed "Lion of Wembley" for his performance. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Mike Payne's England: The Complete Post-War Record providing a detailed match report (report found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 F.A. Yearbook 1951-52 reporting on the match and deeming Argentina's "funnelled" defence and Ruglio for preventing England from winning by a wide margin (report found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  7. 10th November 1949 issue of The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury reporting on the FA's plans for the Festival of Britain (article found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  8. England Football Online detailing the England-Portugal Festival of Britain match. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  9. 9th March 1950 issue of The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury reporting on the possible games during the Festival of Britain (article found on England Football Online). Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  10. England Football Online detailing the England-France game that never ended up being part of the Festival of Britain. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Football Pink detailing the intense rivalry between England and Argentina. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  12. The Sportsman detailing the 1966 England-Argentina clash which led to some Argentines deeming it to be "The robbery of the century". Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  13. Goal detailing the 1986 clash and Maradona's two goals. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  14. The Analyst detailing the 1998 clash and the penalty shootout. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  15. The Set Pieces detailing the 2002 group stage clash. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 11 vs 11 detailing the result of the match. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  17. BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues detailing the BBC's coverage of the match. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  18. Issue 1,434 of Radio Times listing the BBC's coverage of the match. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  19. England Football Online detailing the BBC's coverage of England games from 1950 to 1955. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 BBC Genome Blog noting how almost all football broadcasts featuring Jewell's commentary were never recorded. Retrieved 30th Nov '22
  21. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to the lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 30th Nov '22