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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 24, 3:34 PM UK
World Cup 1954

John Brewin and Martin Williamson

Winners: West Germany
Teams: 16
Teams in qualifiers: 45
Notable absentees: Spain
Surprises: South Korea
Golden Boot: Sandor Kocsis (Hungary) -- 11
Stats: A total of 140 goals were scored (5.38 per match); Hungary (27) scored the most
Format: Four groups of four with two seeded and two unseeded teams in each group. However, the teams played just two matches per group rather than the usual three, with the seeded sides facing unseeded sides. Where teams ended up tied for the second qualifying position by points, they required a playoff. The two teams finishing at the top of their group went through to the quarterfinals
Number of matches 26

Innovations
• For the first time, the tournament was televised
• All matches level after 90 minutes went to extra-time. Only if the scores were still tied after 120 minutes were they deemed drawn

Controversies
• The draw for the finals took place before the end of the qualifying. Spain were seeded but had to be replaced after they were knocked out by Turkey following a replayed match that had eventually been settled by the captains drawing lots
• Three players were sent off in the match between Hungary and Brazil, which went down in history as the Battle of Berne. Even after the game, the fighting continued as the Brazilians burst into the Hungarian dressing room and a further battle ensued
• It has been claimed the German team were doped for the second half of the final, accounting for their much stronger showing

Trivia
• South Korean goalkeeper Hong Duk-Yung conceded 16 goals in two matches
• Fritz and Ottmar Walter of West Germany became the first brothers in a winning World Cup side. In the semifinals, they had become the first brothers to score in the same World Cup game
• The Hungarians went into the final unbeaten in 29 matches over a four-year spell
• The German team were amateurs as there was no professional league there at the time
• Arthur Ellis, the English referee who officiated in the Battle of Berne, went on to become the referee on BBC TV's It's a Knockout


With the championship returning to Europe and World War II still at the forefront of memories, FIFA chose to base the World Cup in that most neutral of countries -- Switzerland. 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 who had swept all before them at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Playing a flowing attacking game that centred on a deep-lying centre-forward in Nandor Hidegutki and the explosive talents of inside-left and captain Ferenc 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. After beating Turkey 4-1, they came up against Hungary, themselves fresh from a record 9-0 thumping of South Korea, and -- having decided to select a second-string team -- collapsed 8-3 to a team playing what many regarded as 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 through their group stage, beating the Czechs 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 repeated their form of 1950 and won the match 4-2.

Brazil were a team going through a rebuilding process after the horror of 1950. Nevertheless, their quarterfinal with Hungary looked an enticing prospect. But a match that 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 Hungary, with inside-forward Kocsis -- The Golden Head -- grabbing two goals.

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 who 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 playoff 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 overriding 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 and many of the stars of 1954 defected from the Communist bloc. Hungarian football has never been the same since.


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