When the Soviets didn’t show up for a World Cup qualifier

This day in football history


On 21 November 1973, Chile beat the Soviet Union 1–0 in a World Cup qualifying playoff match. It helped that the Soviets didn’t bother to show up.

For the first time ever, World Cup qualifier pitted a European team against a South American team in a playoff for the final spot in the tournament. The two teams drew 0–0 in the first leg, played in Moscow on 26 September. The second leg was scheduled for the National Stadium in Santiago, which had recently been used as a prison camp during that year’s Chilean coup d’etat led by U.S. supported General Augusto Pinochet against Soviet backed President Salvador Allende.

The Soviets refused to play in the stadium, effectively withdrawing from the tournament. The match went ahead as scheduled, though, with the Chileans kicking off before a crowd of thousands. They passed the ball down the pitch to their captain, who kicked it into the net from directly in front of the goal. FIFA, however, declared the match a forfeit.

Not to waste the opportunity for a match, Chile hosted a friendly against Brazilian club Santos immediately afterward and lost 5–0. At the 1974 World Cup, Chile failed to advance out of Group 1, finishing between East Germany and eventual winners West Germany.