Tuesday, April 18, 2006 ESPNsoccernet: May 2, 9:23 PM UK
World Cup 1954 - Hosts Switzerland
With the championship returning to Europe and the Second World War still lingering in the forefront of memories, FIFA chose to base the World Cup in that most neutral of countries - Switzerland.
Germany celebrate after they won the FIFA World Cup 1954 final match against Hungary. (Bongarts/GettyImages)
The Swiss had promised to build several purpose-built stadia and, though they did not quite come through with their promises, it was to be a profitable time for FIFA and the host nation.
Top box-office draw was undoubtedly a Hungarian team that had swept all before them at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Playing a flowing attacking game which centred around a deep-lying centre-forward in Nandor Hidegutki and the explosive talents of inside-left and captain Ference Puskas, they had been unbeaten in four years.
Holders Uruguay, travelling to play in a World Cup in Europe for the first time, retained many of their stars from 1950. West Germany, led by the mercurial talents of veteran striker Fritz Walter also had some backers but many of these had fallen by the wayside after the result of their second match.
Having beaten Turkey 4-1 they came up against the Mighty Magyars, themselves fresh from a record 9-0 thumping of South Korea, and collapsed 8-3 to a team playing what many regarded was the best football yet seen on the world stage.
But while the Germans were thoroughly humbled, centre-half Werner Liebrich made probably the most important kick of the tournament - a savage assault on Puskas which led to the Hungarian lynchpin limping off the field with an ankle injury.
But even without their 'Galloping Major', few now saw the winners of the tournament being anyone but the Hungarians.
Uruguay, though, were enjoying life across the Atlantic. They cruised their group stage, beating the Czech's 2-0 and thrashing Scotland, making their first appearance in the finals, 7-0.
Future Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty was one of the terrorised Tartans. His excuse for the loss? That the Uruguayan national anthem was too long and had exhausted the Scots before the game had even started.
England were next for the champions and they were no match as Schiaffino and Varela showed the form of 1950.
Brazil were a team going through a rebuilding process after the horror of 1950. Nevertheless, their quarter-final with Hungary looked an enticing prospect. But a match which for evermore will be known as the 'Battle of Berne' did not show off the finer aspects of the 'Beautiful Game'.
With two Brazilians and one Hungarian sent off and Puskas, still out injured, implicated in a post-match bottling incident on Brazilian centre-half Pinheiro, football was definitely not the winner. That accolade went to the Magyars, with inside-forward Kocsis - 'The Golden Head' - grabbing two goals.
The Battle of Berne: Brazil's Djalma Santos and Hungary skipper Josef Bozik get sent off. (Empics)
The holders awaited them in the semis and the match lived up to all expectations as a late Uruguayan equaliser from Hohberg took the game to extra-time. But Hungary's added class showed in the extra period and it was again Kocsis that won it for them, another brace making his team 4-2 winners.
Their final opponents would be the Germans, who after being forced to play a play-off with the Turks had made easy progress, beating Yugoslavia 2-0 and then thumping Austria 6-1 in the semis. With Walter outstanding, they were a different proposition to the team that had lost so heavily in their first round encounter.
And Puskas remained a doubt for the final with his ankle injury rendering him even more immobile than ever. But tantrum after tantrum saw him restored to the captaincy and the inside-left position. Many also said that his presence would unbalance a team for whom Hidegutki, Kocsis, Budai and Czibor had worked so well together.
All that talk was seemingly wiped away after eight minutes. Puskas returned in style, smashing in a rebound from Kocsis' shot after six minutes. Two minutes later Czibor seized on a backpass to add to the lead. Surely now Hungary would be champions?
Only two minutes later the doubts set in. Max Morlock converted a Schafer cross and then a howler from keeper Grocsis let in Uwe Rahn to equalise on 18 minutes.
The momentum was now with the Germans. For all the Hungarians' pressure and near-misses, desperation was their over-riding emotion. And with six minutes to go, Rahn came away with the ball after another defensive mix-up and scored from the edge of the penalty area.
Hungary came back even stronger and when Puskas, who for the most part had been a badly-limping passenger, fired in a characteristic shot it seemed they had saved what had seemed to have been their God-given right. A waving and quite possibly errant offside flag dashed their hopes and they complained right up to and after the final whistle.
The result would stand. The West Germans were champions and Hungary had blown their best-ever chance to win the title. Two years later their country collapsed into revolution when many of the stars of 1954 defected to the West.