Pariani, starter on 1950 U.S. World Cup team, dies

Gino Pariani, the inside right for the 1950 U.S. World Cup team that produced one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, died on Wednesday at the age of 79 after a two-year battle with bone cancer.

Pariani, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, played a key role in the 1-0 upset of England, maintaining ball possession for the USA. Pariani's only goal in five games for the USA came in the World Cup opener, a 3-1 loss to Spain.

Pariani was born to Italian immigrants and grew up on the Hill, the Italian section of St. Louis, where he began his soccer career at the age of 13. By age 15, he was playing in the top division, winning a league championship with Schumackers. He won U.S. Open Cup championships with St. Louis power Simpkins-Ford in 1948 and 1950.

Pariani was one of four players on Simpkins-Ford who played against England. Pariani and goalie Frank Borghi grew up together on the Hill, on Daggett Street, where a plaque marks their celebrity.

"Gino was probably more appreciated by his teammates than the fans," World Cup teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Walter Bahr said. "Always reliable, always gave a good game -- you could depend upon him to do his job well."

With Pariani's death, only four players from that team are still alive: Harry Keough, John Sousa, Bahr and Borghi. The story of the 1950 squad was told in the 2005 film, "The Game of Their Lives."

A wake is planned from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday at Kutis Funeral Home in Affton, followed by a funeral mass at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Seven Holy Founders Catholic Church.

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