Once more, the unthinkable reared its head at the World Cup. Four years after Brazil watched stunned as the world title slipped away to Uruguay, it was time for one of the strongest teams in football history to crumble when faced with German determination and physical strength in the 1954 World Cup.
Hungary had won the 1952 Olympics and was a powerful, extremely offensive, and effective team that arrived at the tournament’s final with an enviable track record: undefeated for 31 matches and having beaten the Germans 8-3 in the group stage.
1954 World Cup Draw
The finals format had begun to settle down by the time of the World Cup in Switzerland (where FIFA celebrated its half-century at its headquarters in Zurich). The Final Draw was conducted at the St- Gotthard Hotel in Zurich by Emil Landolt, the mayor of the city, with 16 finalists, four first-round pools, quarterfinals, semifinals, and a final.
In 1954, the organizers seeded two teams per pool, which only played the two non-seeded teams. A revised procedure was also implemented for seeding.
Seeds were determined before teams qualified for the finals, so Spain was replaced as seeds by Turkey, while Germany FR, the eventual champions, were unseeded!
1954 World Cup Star Player
Hungary’s biggest star was Ferenc Puskas, the “Galloping Major.” The Hungarian national team was coached by Gusztav Sebes and had other talented players. In addition to Puskas, forwards Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti, and midfielder Jozsef Bozsik stood out.
In the first round of the 1954 World Cup, each group had four teams, and the two seeded teams played the other two teams, but not each other.
Therefore, Germany’s manager Sepp Herberger knew that they could lose to Hungary and still qualify in second place in the group if they beat Turkey – the other seeded team – in an extra match, which Germany had already won 4-1.
Herberger made seven changes to his team and watched Hungary’s convincing win over Germany. However, he fielded a much stronger team against Turkey, beating them 7-2 and reaching the quarter-final.
Goal Fest At 1954 World Cup
With 41 goals scored in Hungary’s group alone, the FIFA World Cup in Switzerland holds the record for the most goals scored in an edition of the tournament.
In 26 matches, the ball found its way into the net 140 times, with an average of over five goals per game. Another record this edition holds is for most goals scored in one single game, twelve in the quarter-final between Switzerland and Austria.
The hosts went 3-0 up in 19 minutes, then conceded five goals in 10 minutes before the break and ended up losing 7-5.
Despite the goal fest, first-time competitors South Korea and Scotland did not score once, finishing in the last place of their respective groups. Scotland lost 7-0 to Uruguay, who also eliminated England in the quarter-final, beating them 4-2.
Uruguay’s next opponent would come out of the quarter-final match between Hungary and Brazil. The Brazilians wore their famous yellow jerseys for the first time, which had been chosen after a national contest.
However, Brazil’s hope of winning their first world title ended after a rather violent match, which became known as the Battle of Bern.
Sandor Kocsis, who would become the 1954 World Cup tournament’s top scorer with 11 goals, scored twice in Hungary’s 4-2 win. The match saw Hungarian player Bozsik get sent off and Nilton Santos and Humberto for Brazil. In addition, a fight broke out between the players in the changing rooms.
Two headers scored by Kocsis in extra time helped Hungary beat Uruguay in the semi-final, with the same score as the Brazil game.
Uruguay had won both FIFA World Cups it had taken part in, and they managed to come back from 2-0 down, with Juan Holberg scoring twice. However, in the end, they had to deal with their first defeat in football’s biggest competition.
While the Hungarians had two get through two devastating matches, West Germany made it to the final without many difficulties, beating Yugoslavia 2-0 and Austria 6-1. Brothers Fritz and Ottmar Walter scored two goals in this last match.
The Miracle Of Bern
The 1954 World Cup final was played at a wet Wankdorf stadium on 4 July 1954. The weather conditions were a good omen for West Germany, as after having malaria during the War, their captain and midfielder Fritz Walter had serious problems playing in the heat. So the German supporters celebrated what they called ‘Fritz Walter weather.
Hungary, in turn, had doubts concerning Puskas’ fitness, as he had not played the two previous matches due to an ankle injury picked up after a tackle by Werner Liebrich in their first game against West Germany.
Despite not being completely match fit, Puskas opened the score in the 6th minute. Then, in the 8th minute, the favorites were 2-0 up after German goalkeeper Toni Turek let the ball drop at Zoltan Czibor’s feet.
However, it only took the Germans ten minutes to draw the match level. The first goal was the result of a reasonable effort from Morlock. Then, Rahn equalized after a corner taken by Fritz Walter.
The heavy rain continued, the tension went up, and only the post managed to stop Hidegkuti from scoring. But, six minutes from time, Rahn took the ball just inside of the box and let off a shot with his left leg that went into the top corner.
There was still time for Puskas to have a goal disallowed by the linesman before the final whistle confirming Hungary’s defeat at the 1954 World Cup and the birth of a new world football power. The match became known as the ‘Miracle of Bern.’
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!