Thursday, June 08, 2006

Switzerland 1954

For the 1954 World Cup, normal service was almost resumed. We were back to groups followed by a knock-out competition, but with a twist. For reasons lost to the record books, drawn matches in the group phases would go to extra-time before a point was awarded to each team. Television was also there for the first time, although there was no live coverage. The hosts were Switzerland. Not only were they financially unscathed by the war, but they had also spent a considerable amount of money developing their facilities. The chances are that the World Cup will never be held in such a small country again.

Group A – Brazil, Yugoslavia, Mexico & France: The draw was kind to the favourites. They sailed through comfortably, with two wins and (eventually) a draw, but the battle for second place was tight, with Yugoslavia by an odd goal.

Group B – West Germany, Hungary, South Korea & Turkey: This was the group of madness. West Germany's 4-1 win over Turkey provided the least goals of any match played. Germany played a weakened team against Hungary, who beat them 8-3. The Magyars also put 9 past South Korea, to join the rejuvenated Germans in the quarter-finals.

Group C – Scotland, Uruguay, Austria and Czechoslovakia: Scotland's entrance into the tournament was a miserable experience, though they were unfortunate in so far as they were in a very difficult group. A narrow defeat to Austria left them with a glimmer of a chance against Uruguay, but the holders demolished them 7-0. Austria then beat the Czechs 5-0 to follow the holders through.

Group D – England, Switzerland, Italy & Belgium: England started poorly, throwing away a two goal lead to draw 4-4 with group outsiders Belgium. The Belgians levelled things after four minutes of injury time, after England had scored on 90 minutes through Nat Lofthouse, No need to panic, though. A comfortable 2-0 win against the hosts saw them avoid the ignominy they'd managed four years previously. The Swiss then beat Italy to force a play-off, which they won 4-1.

Quarter-Finals – Controversy reigned at the match between Hungary and Brazil. Three players were sent off (2 Brazilians and 1 Hungarian) and the fighting continued in the changing rooms after the match had finished. In spite of all this, there was a football match going on, which Hungary won 4-2. There was further excitement as Austria and Switzerland threw up the tournament's record aggregate score, as the Austrians won 7-5. England put up a spirited performance against Uruguay, but were seen off 4-2. With off all his breathless football going on, it's a footnote to add that West Germany beat Yugoslavia 2-0.

Semi-Finals – With Ferenc Puskas injured, Hungary were taken to extra-time by Uruguay in the tournament's biggest match to date. Two extra-time goals from Sandor Kocsis saw them through. Meanwhile, West Germany were ominously demolishing Austria 6-1.

The Final – West Germany 3-2 Hungary

Helmut Rahn levels the scores at 2-2 in the 1954 final

Played in pouring rain in Berne between the two most skilful teams in the world at the time, this is a contender for the greatest World Cup final of all time. Ferenc Puskas had, against medical advice, declared himself fit to play. The gamble seemed to have paid off when he pounced on a loose ball to score after six minutes. Two minutes later, Czibor took advantage of a mix-up in the German defence to score a second. It seemed all over, but not for long. Morlock pulled one back after ten minutes, and just eight minutes later, it was all square again – Rahn taking advantage of a dropped cross by the Hungarian goalkeeper. The goals tailed off, but the pace of the match didn't. Hungary hit the crossbar and created other chances to win it, but with Puskas noticeably struggling, the Germans snatched it when Rahn shot home from twenty yards. Even then, there was time for more incident – Hungary had a goal disallowed with two minutes to play. It was Hungary's first defeat in three years, and West Germany became the only unseeded team ever to win the World Cup.


Ed said...

Ah, the folly of playing your best player, even though he's injured. Sven.

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