• Monday, March 02, 2015

Switzerland 1954

The Miracle of Berne

The jubilant West Germans do a victory lap after beating the mighty Hungarians 3-2 in the final in Berne. PHOTO: DAILY STAR ARCHIVE
The jubilant West Germans do a victory lap after beating the mighty Hungarians 3-2 in the final in Berne. PHOTO: DAILY STAR ARCHIVE

Switzerland was the obvious choice of venue for the fifth World Cup. FIFA's headquarters were in Zurich and 1954 marked the 50th anniversary of its formation. The competition proved to be a financial success and received limited TV coverage for the first time.
FIFA once more found it necessary to change the format, reverting to a pool and knock-out system. The 16 teams were divided into four groups with two teams in each group seeded. The two seeded teams, strangely enough, did not need to play each other in the group. Also remarkable was that extra time was needed if the scores were level in the group matches!
Hungary were the new force to be reckoned with. They banged in goals with a frequence never seen before in a World Cup. They beat West Germany 8-3 and South Korea 9-0. The world was introduced to players like Puskas, Kocsis, Hidegkuti and Czibor. Another team among the favourites was Uruguay. They still hadn't lost a match in World Cup history at this stage and their run continued also after the group stage after beating Czechoslovakia and Scotland.
The quarterfinal between Austria and Switzerland brought a new World Cup record. Austria won 7-5, that's the highest number of goals ever in a World Cup match. Uruguay beat England 4-2, and Hungary beat Brazil by the same score in one of the most brutal matches ever, later dubbed as 'The Battle of Berne'. West Germany, who had from their early thrashing by Hungary in the first round, beat Yugoslavia.
The semifinal between Hungary and Uruguay is regarded to be one of the best ever in a World Cup. Hungary won 4-2 after extra-time and with that, Uruguay's unbeaten run was broken. The Germans had hit top form and trashed their neighbours Austria by 6-1 and the stage was set for a great final.
Rain dampened the final, but not the Hungarians' resolve as they blasted their way to a 2-0 lead with goals from Puskas and Czibor, leading spectators believing a rout might be on.
The Germans had other ideas, however, and battled back brilliantly to level the scores through Maximilian Morlock and Uwe Rahn. It was 2-2 and only 20 minutes had been played.
The action swung back and forth for the rest of the first-half and most of the second, but with extra-time looming Rahn struck the championship winner with five minutes left, brilliantly set-up by Fritz Walter.
In the dying minutes Puskas ran onto Toth's pass to slide the ball under Turek, only for Mervyn Griffiths, the authoritarian, high-profile Welsh linesman to call it offside. Thirty seconds from the end, Czibor put everything into a shot, but Turek, tremendously agile for a man of 35, turned it away.
It was the end of Hungary's virtual invincibility. They had strong claims to that unwanted title: best team never to win the World Cup. For them this was the end of the World.


Winners: West Germany
Runners-up: Hungary
Leading Scorer: Sandor Kocsis (HUN)--11
Teams: 16
Matches: 26
Goals: 140
Attendance: 889,500

Published: 12:00 am Monday, May 12, 2014

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