Quarter final
Austria 7 (5) Switzerland 5 (4)
Attendance 29,000

The match between Austria and Switzerland made up in entertainment value for what it lost in technique. A professional team should not lose from a three-nil lead , which was the situation after twenty-three minutes. Conceding five goals in ten minutes tells a story of panic, although scoring one back shows a sign of some fighting spirit. Thus at half-time the score was 5-4 to Austria, with a missed penalty making the margin finer than it should have been. The second half could not hope to live up to this even though there were to be three more goals. The seven-five win for Austria proving both elevating and enervating as the subsequent semi-final was to show.

 

Semi-final
West Germany 6 (1) Austria 1 (0)
Attendance 58,000


West Germany took on an Austrian team reeling from their incredible quarterfinal against the hosts. The Austrians understandably changed their goalkeeper from one who had conceded five; yet his replacement, Walter Zeman, had previously been dropped because he was out of sorts. A nervous defence, an off-form goalkeeper who then proceeded to prove he was off-form by a series of disastrous misses set the stage for a calamitous 6-1 defeat for a team that would ordinarily have been expected to beat West Germany. The devil really had the best tunes, as this stroke of luck could be considered a reward for the questionable tactics earlier in the tournament of the West German coach.

 

Semi-final
Hungary 4 (1) Uruguay 2 (1) after extra time.
Attendance 45,000


The other semi-final should have been the final. Hungary, far and away the best team in the world verses the two times and defending champions - Uruguay. Supremely fit Hungary, far and away the most exhilarating team on earth verses a skilful traditional side who had two deep central defenders and two attacking fullbacks. Puskas, injured by brutal West German tackling in the first round games, was still unavailable to the Hungarians; however, Uruguay’s captain Varela was also out, hurt in the quarterfinal win against England, thus there was a parity of sorts in terms of missing players. At first it looked as though Hungary would overrun Uruguay, helped, apparently, by the heavy rain earlier in the day; for the Magyars scored in the opening quarter of an hour as a result of A Kocsis header to Czibor which was blasted into the back of the net. Yet the traffic was not all one way as Uruguay’s midfield general Schiaffino contrived to create opportunities for the South American side. Shortly after half time, one of the greatest goals ever seen in a World Cup seemed to end the match as a contest. A poor clearance from Carballo at the back of the Uruguayan defence was intercepted by Buzansky. Instantly Budai and Boszik charged forward, the latter managing to lay on a cross to Hidegkuti, who was apparently too far away to take advantage, yet the quick thinking centre-forward dived, just managing to head the ball into the back of the net. Two-nil. Uruguay, with the confidence of a team never previously beaten in any World Cup, continued to exude self-belief, chance after chance was fashioned by Schiaffino, Borges on the left wing had a shot cleared off the line. Eventually Hohburg, in the final quarter of an hour of normal time, managed to exploit a Schiaffino pass and score. The champion was aroused and fighting, two-one did not appear an insurmountable deficit, thus the valiantly rallying Uruguayans managed to repeat nearly the identical trick in the eight-eighth minute, Hohburg again scoring from a Schiaffino pass, the effort of which caused him to faint. The game moved into extra time. Yet these fantastic exertions had taken their toll, Uruguay only had one more real chance early on, the Schiaffino-Hohburg combination yet again, which resulted in a shot which bounced off a post. Thereafter the traffic streamed towards the Uruguayan goal as the much fitter Hungarians pressed forward. In the second period of extra time, Kocsis scored twice with headers, body blows from which Uruguay were too drained to recover. Thus the two teams that had qualified from Pool Two would meet in the final, with the additional diabolical fillip that the West Germans would be considerably fresher.

 

Final
Berne 4 July 1954

Result (half-time score in brackets)
West Germany 3 (2) Hungary 2 (2)
Attendance 55,000

West Germany: Turek, Posipal, Kohlmeyer, Eckel, Liebrich, Mai, Rahn,
Morlock, O. Walter, F. Walter, Schäfer.

Hungary: Grosics, Buzansky, Lantos, Bozsik, Lorant, Zakarias,
Czibor, Kocsis, Hidegkuti, Puskas, J. Toth.
Referee: Bill Ling (England).

Scorers: Morlock, Rahn (2) West Germany.
Puskas, Czibor Hungary.

The 1954 final would be between the war time allies Hungary and (West) Germany. Hungary which when a kingdom in the Hapsburg Empire had encompassed a much wider area, including Transylvania, the Voivodina (in modern day Serbia) and Slovakia. The Hungarian capital Budapest had been completely shattered in savage fighting in November 1944 when captured by Malinovskii’s Second Ukrainian Front. For the first time in a while the Hungarian nation, shackled behind the Iron Curtain, would have something to celebrate, for their team was the world’s finest footballing circus. Bread would have to wait until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The horrific injury inflicted by Liebrich in the first match with West Germany had kept Puskas out, he now returned to the Hungarian team. It was and is arguable that it was a mistake to reinstate Hungary’s finest player, for he was not fit and his return necessitated some reshuffling that resulted in players playing outside their best positions. Nor was there a possibility to rectify this mistake as substitutions were not allowed.

On the day of the match (4 July 1954, US Independence Day!) the heavens opened. West Germany were physically much more robust than Uruguay, Hungary’s previous opponents, so this would not necessarily have benefited Hungary, particularly given Puskas’s injury; nonetheless the “Magic Magyars” were two up after only eight minutes. Yet even this short interval had taken its toll, the injury Puskas was carrying meant that Hungary had effectively only ten men, worse even as players would naturally assume Puskas to be capable. Thus West Germany equalised after less than ten minutes. The impossible had become the credible. Underdogs can produce the performance of a lifetime which is what happened here as Toni Turek the West German goalkeeper changed from the villain who had conceded two goals, to the hero who saved everything. Shot after shot rained in without breaching the fortress. Then after eighty-three minutes play Rahn of West Germany burst through the Hungarian defence and scored. Game over? No, for two minutes later Puskas equalised, save that the goal was disallowed for offside, a questionable but final decision. Thus it came about that one of the weaker teams in the tournament became World Champions. The Hungarian team of 1954 vies with the Dutch sides of the 1970s for the status of the strongest team not to win the World Cup.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.