July 21 is the birthday of the Soviet football player Eduard Streltsov. One of the most memorable moments of his career took place 67 years ago. Then the 17-year-old boy made his debut for the USSR national team and set a record that has not yet been broken.
Streltsov scored three goals in one half. So no one made his debut in our team, except for him
In early 1955, the USSR national team toured India. The tour turned out to be eventful, with a huge number of friendly matches. For a month and a half, she played 19 matches with the national teams of local cities and states, scoring 19 victories. In total, Soviet football players scored 100 goals, and Streltsov turned out to be the most productive (15 goals).
We loved Edik very much. They called him “baby”. Not only because he was the youngest in the national team. Edik bribed us old people with his disinterestedness and good nature. Note that for a young man of his age, this is a rare property. As a rule, young people, and especially football players, are ambitious, conceited,” recalled the 1956 Olympic champion Nikita Simonyan.
“At the end, I even shed a tear.” Relatives of Streltsov – about the film of the same name
Eduard’s official debut in the national team took place in June 1955 – at the Rosunda stadium in Stockholm. The arrival of the Soviet Union team caused a serious stir in Sweden – 40 thousand tickets were sold in two hours. The local team was counting on revenge, because the year before it had suffered a crushing defeat with a score of 0:7 in Moscow. Compared to that match, the composition of the Swedish national team has undergone major changes, and some of the players were not familiar to the Soviet players.
Before the match, Swedish sports commentators were counting on a successful outcome. They had no doubt that the USSR national team would not be able to achieve victory in a foreign stadium. But as soon as the English referee Ling gave the starting whistle, it became clear that the hosts had nothing to catch. The players of the USSR national team carried out one attack after another, and the Swedes could not cope with such pressure. After the first half, the hosts were hopelessly on fire – 0:4.
Streltsov was especially good. He opened the scoring already in the fourth minute, and a little later he strengthened the advantage of the Soviet team. Eduard will run through half the field, beat the defenders with the goalkeeper and roll the ball into an empty net. At the end of the first half, Streltsov will score a hat-trick – an incredible debut for the national team! No one started so productively in the national team, either before or after the Torpedo footballer.
Photo: From the personal archive of Eduard Streltsov
The Swedes changed tactics during the game, but this did not bring them success. They tried to patronize the leaders of the USSR national team more closely, but they outperformed their rivals in speed. Having conceded the fifth goal, the hosts threw all their strength into upsetting the goalkeeper of the Soviet team Lev Yashin. This was used by the guests, who fled to the counterattack and set the final score of the match – 6:0. The players of the USSR national team lacked quite a bit to repeat the result of a year ago. Streltsov’s game impressed the restrained Swedish spectators and journalists. Eduard received the nickname Russian tank from local newspapermen for his physical data and the ability to break through any defense.
Here is what Honored Master of Sports of the USSR Valentin Nikolaev said about Streltsov’s game. “I remember the game in Sweden, where Edik played for the USSR national team for the first time. So, we won that game 6-0. Streltsov scored three goals. His game was very impressive. It was reminiscent of the game of Vsevolod Mikhailovich Bobrov, whose mass may have been less, but Bobrov always went to the opponent with the ball. Went to win. He was not looking for ways to run somewhere to the side. And often won such martial arts. Streltsov also played in the same style.
“After the meeting in Stockholm, where the Soviet players again inflicted a heavy defeat on the Swedish national team, interest in meetings with Germany and Hungary increased even more. A Swedish newspaper even ran a cartoon. It depicted how high our players hover under the clouds, and below, on the ground, there are Swedish football players. The inscription to the picture read: “Will the Soviet team, after the match with Hungary, hold on to the height where the Swedish football players raised it?” – wrote the first vice-president of FIFA Valentin Granatkin in the book “International Meetings of Soviet Football Players”.
The USSR national team will beat the Germans, and they will play a draw with the formidable Hungarians. The next meeting of the Soviet and Swedish teams will be held at the World Championships in 1958. Many believed that that tournament would be Streltsov’s benefit, but, alas, Eduard did not reach Sweden. The whole world then applauded another young genius – Pele. And the Swedish team will become vice-champion of the world. The same team that Streltsov had sentenced three years earlier in the first half.
Why did Streltsov miss the Olympic final? One of the main mysteries of our football
“If Edik had been with us at the 1958 World Cup, we would have returned from there with medals”
In conclusion – a few quotes from legendary people about Streltsov.
Nikita Simonyan, 1956 Olympic champion, Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, Honored Coach of the USSR.
– I was lucky to play with Streltsov. He was pushed forward, I acted a little behind. He was mercilessly beaten on the legs. But Edik never fought back, he endured. He only did good to people. Doing good was his purpose in life. And to give his wonderful game to the audience is also from his kindness. I am absolutely sure: if Eduard Streltsov had been with us at the World Championships in Sweden in 1958, Soviet football players would have returned from there with medals.
Nikita Simonyan and Konstantin Beskov
Photo: From the personal archive of Nikita Simonyan
Nikolai Ozerov, Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, sports commentator.
– Streltsov is the greatest footballer. I remember when he played – so many spectators went to the games to see this wonderful guy in action. And if his life had turned out differently, a footballer of the level of Pele would have grown up in our country, and maybe even higher. This is an unusually kind, decent, very affectionate person.
Valentin Ivanov, Olympic champion in 1956, Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, Honored Coach of the USSR.
– Football players like Streltsov are born once in a hundred years. He had qualities that no one else had. Physical strength, speed and most importantly – the mind. Edik, like no one else, knew how to think on the field, he knew when to run, when to stand.