x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

How does it feel to score four v Brazil and still lose?

June 5 should be set aside as 'Ernest Wilimowksi Day' in Poland in honour of the nation's forgotten football hero.

June 5 should be set aside as 'Ernest Wilimowksi Day' in Poland in honour of the nation's forgotten football hero. For it was on this date in 1938 that Wilimowksi made World Cup history in the cruellest possible manner when he scored four goals against Brazil in Strasbourg only to finish on the losing side. Making their first appearance in a World Cup finals tournament, Poland were expected to stand discreetly in the wings while the South Americans entertained the French audience with their soccer Samba. Instead of which, the predicted rout turned into a classic, Brazil only securing a heart-stopping 6-5 victory (with striker Leonidas also scoring four) in extra-time after the two teams had shared eight goals in the normal 90 minutes.

The luckless Wilimowksi is not the only player to have given so much on behalf of his team for so little reward. The 1962 European Cup final in Amsterdam brought together the two most exciting teams on the continent; Real Madrid, European champions for the first five years of the competition from 1956-60, and Benfica, who had become the second team to lift the trophy by defeating Barcelona in the '61 final.

It was, as the cliché goes, a game of two halves. The Spanish maestros were at their hypnotic best for the first 45 minutes with Hungarian Ferenc Puskas helping himself to a hat-trick as Real repaired to the dressing-room defending a 3-2 advantage. During the half-time interval, Benfica's shrewd coach Beta Guttman instructed midfielder Cavem to shadow Alfredo Di Stefano throughout the second-half. "If he goes to the toilet - follow him off the pitch..." was the order of the day.

Guttman's change of tactics worked to perfection, Benfica pilfering three goals without reply to emerge 5-3 victors and leaving the 'Galloping Major' with the personal satisfaction of having scored three goals in a European Cup final but missing another winner's medal to add to his collection. Real's city neighbours Atletico were similarly embarrassed in a 1977 La Liga game against Barcelona in which striker Milinko Pantic scored four goals while his defensive colleagues were shipping five at the other end. But at least Pantic accepted that for whatever reasons, the sporting fates had decided not to smile upon him that day. When Italian international Christian Viera also netted a quartet of goals in Atletico's 5-4 defeat against Salamanca, two decades later,legend has it that he refused to join his team-mates in the dressing-room, quickly changing in the corridor before scurrying out of the door.

Wilimowksi's compatriot Dariusz Dziekanows must have imagined that his personal four-goal contribution had secured the reward it merited when Celtic led Partizan Belgarde 5-2 on the night (and 5-4 on aggregate) as their 1990 UUFA Cup clash entered the final 60 seconds. But that was time enough for Celtic's accident prone back four to commit one further blunder, handing the Yugoslavs victory on away goals.

But the a award for Football's Unluckiest Goal Hero goes to...(open envelope...)...Denis Law who netted all six as Manchester City built up a 6-2 lead over Luton Town in a fourth-round FA Cup tie in 1961. As the rain, which had been falling throughout the game, turned into an English monsoon, the referee bad no option but to abandon the game deep into the second half. Luton Town made the most of their great escape by winning the replay 3-1.

"It's not every day that you score six goals let alone score six goals and still lose," laughs Denis. "I never did it again - the most I managed in a game that counted was four, which I got a couple of times. But when the heavens opened it obviously wasn't meant to be. The funny thing was when we went down to Luton for the replay on the Wednesday the pitch was in a even worse state than it had been on the Saturday."

PS Who scored City's only goal in the second game? Have one guess...? rphilip@thenational.ae