Switzerland 1954

2010-05-04 14:25
Hosts: Switzerland
Champions: West Germany
Runners Up: Hungary

The 1954 FIFA World Cup, the fifth staging of the World Cup, was held in Switzerland from 16 June to 4 July. As the year saw the 50th anniversary of FIFA, it was appropriate for football's premier competition to be played in the home of its governing body, and Switzerland was chosen as hosts in July 1946. The tournament was won by West Germany, who defeated Hungary 3–2 in the final, giving them their first title.

For the first time there was television coverage, and special coins were issued to mark the event. 16 teams qualified for the tournament and an unusual system was used in the first stage. The 16 teams were divided into four groups: each group comprised two of the eight seeded teams based on world rankings (Austria, Brazil, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Turkey and Uruguay), plus two unseeded teams.

Instead of a conventional round-robin where each team would play three matches, the seeded teams as well as the unseeded teams were spared from playing each other as the unseeded teams were squared up only against the seeded ones in a chance to qualify, so each team played only 2 group matches, unless tied for the second qualifying position by points, which required a play-off.

Consequently Switzerland and Italy played each other twice with Switzerland winning the play-off 4–1. The Germans, who had been reinstated as full FIFA members only in 1950 and were unseeded, won the first of two encounters with the seeded Turkish convincingly in Berne at Wankdorf stadium. The Koreans, as the other unseeded team, lost 0–7 and 0–9, with Germany being denied the chance to play such an easy opponent. Sepp Herberger the German coach gambled against the seeded team of Hungary by sending in a reserve side to take an expected 3–8 loss, with the only consequence being the additional playoff game against Turkey that was won with ease. Hungary's team captain Ferenc Puskás, considered by many as the best player in the world in that time, was injured by German defender Werner Liebrich, and had to miss the next two matches of his team, only to show up in the final in a questionable condition.

The quarter-finals saw the favourites Hungary beat Brazil 4–2 in one of the most violent matches in football history, which became infamous as the Battle of Berne. Meanwhile, the World Cup holders Uruguay sent England out of the tournament, also by 4–2. Germany dispatched Yugoslavia 2–0, and Austria beat the host nation Switzerland in the game that saw the most goals in any World Cup match, 7–5.

One of the semi-finals saw Austria, against the DFB team which represented the Federal Republic of Germany, one of three German states of the time. The DFB had qualified against fellow Germans from the Saarland (which then was a French protectorate), while East Germany had not entered, cancelling international football games after the East German uprising of 1953. With the final at stake, West Germany won 6–1.

The other semi-final, one of the most exciting games of the tournament, saw Hungary go into the second half leading Uruguay 1–0, only for the game to be taken to extra time with a score after 90 minutes of 2–2. The deadlock was broken by Sándor Kocsis with two late goals to take Hungary through to the final, beating a team that had not previously lost a World Cup game. Uruguay then went on to be beaten for a second time as Austria secured third place.

The Germans were handed the Jules Rimet trophy and the title of World Cup winners while the crowd sang along to the tunes of the national anthems of Germany. In Germany the success is known as The Miracle of Bern, upon which a 2003 film of the same name was based. For the Hungarians, the defeat was a disaster, and remains controversial due to referee errors and claims of doping.

Notable Facts
Adi Dassler (Adidas) provided shoes with exchangeable studs for the first time to the West German team.

During the final between West Germany and Hungary, a controversy came to light: Hungarian goalie Gyula Grosics jumped to catch Fritz Walter's corner shot, but in plain sight of the camera, Hans Schäfer obstructed him, thus the ball could reach Rahn unhindered. A second controversy concerns allegations of doping to explain the better condition of the German team in the second half. Though teammates steadfastly denied this rumour, German historian Guido Knopp claimed in a 2004 documentary for German public channel ZDF that the players were injected with shots of vitamin C at half-time, using a needle earlier taken from a Soviet sports doctor, which would also explain the wave of jaundice among team members following the tournament.

Most controversial was the offside ruling for Puskás's intended 87th minute equalizer. The camera filming the official footage was in a bad position to judge the situation, only eyewitnesses claimed that the referee was wrong, including German replacement player Alfred Pfaff. However, since then, footage showing no offside surfaced (shown on North German regional public channel NDR in 2004).

Golden Boot
Sándor Kocsis of Hngary, who scored 11 goals, a new record.

Yugoslavian goalkeeper Vladimir Bera tries in vain to stop a Brazilian onslaught. (FIFA)
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