Curiously, against the actuarial odds, only five players from the U.S. team are known to be alive today. Eddy Souza died in 1977. Colombo, Wallace, Maca and McIlvenny are also dead.
Keough was wrong about one thing. The stunning goal did not awaken the English lion. Instead, as Brian Glanville, a noted English soccer writer, observed, the team found itself running around in the worst kind of anxiety state, as if it had encountered some fearsome psychic barrier against scoring.
Meantime, the Americans grew 10 feet tall. It has been said that the State of Minas Gerais, of which Belo Horizonte is the capital, has a heart of gold and a breast of iron. And now a breast of iron would guard a golden goal on this cloudy June day; the U.S. defense was, indeed, iron-breasted, and none more so than Colombo, the center fullback.
Back in St. Louis, any soccer fan could have told you two basic facts about Colombo: He always played, for a reason known only to him, in leather gloves; and he was the meanest s.o.b. in the Missouri Valley.
With eight minutes left to play, Colombo saved the U.S. with one of the most flagrant fouls in World Cup history. In the center circle, England's Mortensen broke free past Colombo, with only the keeper, Borghi, between him and an equalizing goal. So Colombo, from the edge of the penalty box, launched himself at the back of Mortensen's knees, bringing his foe down in a crash tackle. Years later Keough said, "You wouldn't see the like of it in the NFL, because they mostly lady-tackle now."
Though it was an expulsion-from-the-game offense, in an extraordinary turn of events that favored the U.S., Colombo was not sent off. To his dying day, he swore that while the referee seemed to be bawling him out, what he was actually saying was, "Buono, buono!" because the ref was an Italian, too.
"You know," Keough would say later, "I watched Charlie play softball a few times, and he'd hit a routine single to rightfield and he'd just keep going, very daring. He didn't want to lose the ball game. If his mother was in his way, he'd kick her out of the way."
But Colombo's foul had given England a free kick from the edge of the box. Alf Ramsey (later Sir Alf, the coach of England's winning 1966 World Cup team) came up to take it. Ramsey was famous for his precisely placed kicks. Borghi, who was having a great afternoon in the U.S. goal, crouched to face him.
Borghi was a keeper, his colleagues agreed, who didn't really know how to keep goal. Nobody had taught him about getting his chest behind the ball, all that technical stuff. On the other hand, he had put in a lot of time as a catcher and third baseman in baseball, so he did what came naturally and never dropped a ball once he caught it. In the prelims, the Mexicans had laughed at him. The English weren't laughing at him now.
Ramsey took the kick, and the ball floated over the wall to teammate Jimmy Mullen, who came running in to head it to the left of Borghi. Said Keough, who was on the spot as a fullback: "Borghi dove. The ball went by his hand—and then he made an extra, miraculous stretch, a very unorthodox one, reached behind and flipped the ball out, and I cleared it for a corner kick. The English all protested like hell that the ball was over the line already, but it wasn't."