The 5th Edition - Switzerland 1954
The 1954 FIFA World Cup, the fifth staging of the FIFA World Cup, was held in Switzerland from 16 June to 4 July. Switzerland was chosen as hosts in July 1946. The tournament set a number of all-time records for goal-scoring, including the highest average goals scored per game. The tournament was won by West Germany, who defeated Hungary 3–2 in the final, giving them their first title.
Switzerland was awarded the tournament unopposed on 22 July 1946, the same day that Brazil was selected for the 1950 World Cup, in Luxembourg City
The hosts (Switzerland) and the defending champions (Uruguay) qualified automatically. Of the remaining 14 places, 11 were allocated to Europe (including Egypt, Turkey and Israel), 2 to the Americas, and one to Asia.
Scotland, Turkey and South Korea made their World Cup debuts at this tournament (Turkey and Scotland had qualified for the 1950 competition but both withdrew). Austria appeared for the first time since 1934. Turkey would not participate at a finals again until the 2002 competition, while South Korea's next appearance would be in 1986.
The third and fourth place teams from 1950, Sweden and Spain, both failed to qualify. In a shock result, Spain was eliminated by Turkey: after the two countries had tied a three-game series, Turkey progressed by drawing of lots.
German teams were allowed to qualify again, after having been banned from the 1950 FIFA World Cup. West Germany 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.
Argentina, along with Hungary perhaps the strongest team at the time, had abstained from participation for the third world cup in a row.
The 1954 tournament used a unique format. The sixteen qualifying teams were divided into four groups of four teams each. Each group contained two seeded teams and two unseeded teams. Only four matches were scheduled for each group, each pitting a seeded team against an unseeded team (this contrasts with a conventional round-robin in which every team plays every other team, which would have resulted in six matches in each group). In a further oddity, extra time would be played if the teams were level after 90 minutes in the group games, with the result being a draw if the scores were still level after 120 minutes.
Two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. The two teams with the most points from each group would progress to the knockout stage. If the first and second placed teams were level on points, lots would be drawn to decide which team would top the group. However, if the second and third placed teams were level on points, they would participate in a playoff to decide which team would progress to the next stage.
It turned out that two of the four groups required playoffs, and the other two required drawing of lots between the two top teams. The playoffs were between Switzerland and Italy, and Turkey and West Germany: in both matches the unseeded teams (Switzerland and West Germany) repeated earlier victories against the seeds (Italy and Turkey) to progress. In the two groups that did not require playoffs, there was drawing of lots to determine the first-place teams: resulting in Uruguay and Brazil finishing above Austria and Yugoslavia, respectively.
A further unusual feature of the format was that the four group-winning teams were drawn against each other in the knockout stages to provide one finalist, and the four second-placed teams played against each other to provide the second finalist. In subsequent tournaments it has become customary to draw group winners against non-group-winners in the initial knockout stage.
If a knockout game was tied after 90 minutes, then 30 minutes of extra time would be played. If the score was still tied after extra time, lots would have been drawn to decide which team progressed. However, if the final was tied after extra time, it would have been replayed, with lots deciding the winner only if the replay was also tied after extra time.
The eight seeded teams were based on world rankings (Austria, Brazil, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Turkey and Uruguay), plus two unseeded teams. With seeding determined before the teams had even qualified for the final tournament, the organizers had to replace Spain with Turkey, the team that unexpectedly knocked the Spaniards out.
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 Bern 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 again, still being 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.
In the first semi-final, West Germany beat Austria 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, with Uruguay finally losing its unbeaten record in World Cup Final matches. Uruguay then went on to be beaten for a second time as Austria secured third place.
The Wankdorf Stadion in Bern saw 60,000 people cram inside to watch the final between West Germany and Hungary, a rematch of a first round game, which Hungary had won 8–3 against the reserves of the German team. The Golden Team of the Hungarians were favourites, as they were unbeaten for a record of 32 consecutive matches but they had two tough play-off matches. It had started raining on game day – in Germany this was dubbed "Fritz-Walter-Wetter" (Fritz Walter's weather) because the German team captain Fritz Walter was said to play his best in rainy weather. Adi Dassler had provided shoes with exchangeable studs.
The final saw Hungary's Ferenc Puskás playing again even though he was not fully fit. Despite this he put his team ahead after only 6 minutes and with Zoltán Czibor adding another two minutes later it seemed that the pre-tournament favourites would take the title. However, with a quick goal from Max Morlock in the 10th and the equalizer of Helmut Rahn in the 19th, the tide began to turn.
The second half saw telling misses from the Hungarian team. Barely 6 minutes before the end of the match, the popular German radio reporter Herbert Zimmermann gave the most famous German piece of commentary, recommending Rahn should kick from the backfield, which he did. The second goal from Rahn gave Germany a 3–2 lead while the Hungarian reporter György Szepesi burst into tears. Later, Zimmermann called Puskás offside before he kicked the ball into Toni Turek's net with 2 minutes left. While referee Ling pointed to the centre spot, linesman Griffiths signalled offside. After a one-minute consultation, referee Ling disallowed the claimed equalizer.
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.
One controversy concerns the 2–2. 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. The 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. A Leipzig University study in 2010 posited that the Germany players had been injected with the banned substance methamphetamine.
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 evidencing no offside surfaced (shown on North German regional public channel NDR in 2004)
The following all-time records were set or equalled at this tournament, and have not subsequently been surpassed:
For the first time there was television coverage, and special coins were issued to mark the event.
The 11 goals scored by Kocsis of Hungary not only led the World Cup but bettered the previous record (set by Brazilian Ademir in the previous tournament) by two goals. Kocsis' mark was then broken by Just Fontaine's 13 goals in 1958. Despite not winning the 1954 tournament, the fourth place finish and their two previous World Cup titles made Uruguay the most successful World Cup nation for eight years, until Brazil won their second title in 1962. Hungary's 9–0 result against Korea during the group stages remains to this day the biggest margin of victory in FIFA World Cup history, later equalled by Yugoslavia over Zaire (9-0) in 1974 and Hungary over El Salvador(10-1) in 1982.
West Germany also became the first team to win the World Cup after having lost a match at the finals (losing 8–3 to Hungary in the group stage). This feat was subsequently repeated by West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978 and Spain in 2010, who all lost group matches 1–0. Coincidentally, all three teams won against Netherlands sides in the final. The 1954 competition remains the only World Cup tournament in which no team was undefeated.
West Germany's 1954 victory remains the only time that a team has won the World Cup without playing any team from outside its own continent (Turkey is geographically partly in Asia, but qualified from Europe and has always been affiliated with UEFA).
Germany's victory in the match is considered one of the greatest upsets of all time and one of the finest achievements in German sporting history. The German team was made up of amateur players as Germany did not have a professional league at this time, while the Hungarians were de jure amateurs, like in any communist country that time, and playing football as professionals, mainly for Budapesti Honvéd FC and later for major clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, and were ranked best in the world. This is the only time a team has won the World Cup with amateur footballers.