Four years after the frenzy of the Maracana stadium, the Jules Rimet trophy returned to Europe to a calmer atmosphere in Switzerland. The field of play, however, produced breathtaking entertainment. This fifth FIFA World Cup was unforgettable for its sensational high-scoring games, and a surprise win for the German Federal Republic.
Hungary were the favourites with a team including Puskas, Bozsik, Kocsis and Hidegkuti, unbeaten in 28 internationals and Olympic champions. But after the infamous "Battle of Berne" with Brazil -- three players were sent off and the teams fought afterwards in the dressing rooms -- the Hungarians were rattled.
In the final, after leading 2-0 against West Germany, whom they had beaten 8-3 in the opening round, they went down 3-2
A global dimension
The FIFA World Cup, staged in Switzerland at the foot of the Alps, was to soar to new heights in 1954. The qualifying rounds featured a higher number of nations than ever before, with the AFC founded in 1954 also including several teams from Asia (Japan and Korea) and Africa (Egypt), giving the event a truly global dimension. Sixteen teams took part in the finals, three more than in Brazil four years earlier. South America was represented by Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico; the Asian qualifier was Korea (the first Asian team having been the Dutch East Indies in 1938), and the Europeans were Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Scotland, Switzerland, Turkey, West Germany and Yugoslavia. This figure remained constant until the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, when it rose to 24.
The magical Magyars
The quality of football in the games at Basle, Berne, Lausanne, Zurich and Geneva, the five host cities, reached dizzying heights in 1954. In 26 matches, an incredible total of 140 goals was scored, making an average of 5.38 goals per game. Needless to say, this is still the record for the number of goals scored in a FIFA World Cup final competition. The Hungarians, Olympic gold medal winners two years earlier, and unbeaten since May 1950 (31 games: 27 wins and 4 draws), were the incontestable favourites. From the outset of this fifth FIFA World Cup, the "magical Magyars", who included in their ranks Ferenc Puskas, Jozsef Boszik and Sandor Kocsis, showed their class by thrashing Korea (9-0) and an admittedly under-strength German side, 8-3.
In the quarter-finals, Hungary, still on a roll, beat Brazil (4-2) in a high-tension match that ended in the dressing rooms when players, managers and the two delegations came to blows!
Surprises came with two other European teams. Firstly, Switzerland, who beat Italy and provoked the latter's "humiliating" first-round exit from the competition, but who were eventually eliminated by Austria in an epic struggle (5-7, another record!).
Secondly, the West Germans, who confidently pursued their way through to the final and another meeting with their first-round conquerors, the Hungarians. The spectators were expecting the Hungarian magic to work again; and indeed, Hungary rapidly went two goals ahead. In ten memorable minutes the West Germans had fought back to equalise, and more was yet to come. After the Hungarians hit the post, Helmut Rahn scored the winner for West Germany with only six minutes remaining, when the Hungarian goalkeeper, Gyula Grosics, slid on the wet grass as he was about to go for the ball. The Wankdorf stadium in Berne was thus the scene for one of the biggest ever FIFA World Cup surprises on that Sunday, 4 July 1954. For the West Germans, as we now know, this first FIFA World Cup trophy was to pave the way to continued success.
Did You Know?
Following their wins in 1930 and 1950, Uruguay were back for their third appearance and still unbeaten. Playing in the "old" continent for the first time, they had the chance of carrying off the trophy permanently with a third win. That would not come to pass, however - the spectators watching their semi-final against Hungary could well believe they were seeing the old champions in action against the new ones. Puskas, Hidegkuti, Kocsis and co. had won the Olympic title in 1952 and beaten England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953, and now overcome the world champions in extra time. The final proved to be a match too far, however, with Germany overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Hungary 3-2 and win their first World Cup.
On 26 June 1954, the quarter-final match in Lausanne produced more goals than any match before or since, Austria beating Switzerland 7-5, despite the Swiss being 3:0 ahead at one stage. But the extreme heat took its toll of the home team.
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