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On this day in 1954, West Germany won their first-ever World Cup by defeating Hungary against all the odds

On 4th July 1954 West Germany defeated Hungary to cause one of the biggest upsets in the history of International football famously known as The Miracle of Bern.

Last updated: 04.07.2021
When West Germany won their first-ever World Cup by defeating Hungary against all the odds

On 4th July 1954 West Germany defeated Hungary to cause one of the biggest upsets in the history of International football famously known as 'The Miracle of Bern'

This generation knows Germany as a top footballing nation who i among the favourites to win every tournament they participate in. The Germans have won the World Cup four times and the Euros three times. But back in the Post second world war era that wasn't the case. Germany who back then was known as West Germany were never favourites to win a competition.

The Hungary team on the other hand was famously known as the Golden team among other things widely regarded as the greatest national team of all time. Between 1950 and 1956, the team recorded 42 victories, 7 draws and only 1 defeat. The team was built around a core of six key players: Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Zoltán Czibor, József Bozsik and Gyula Grosics. The manager of the team was Gusztáv Sebes. The team is generally credited for successfully implementing an early form of "Total Football". 

In the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, West Germany was pitted in a group with Turkey, South Korea and Hungary. In the opening game, they defeated Turkey by four goals to one. Hungary ran riot against South Korea whom they defeated by a 9-0 margin. In the following game Hungary hammered the Germans 8-3. While Hungary topped the group Germany and Turkey were joint second which meant a play-off game was needed to determine who would qualify for the Quarterfinals. Germany for the second time in six days defeated Turkey very comfortably to book their place in the Quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals Germany got a 2-0 victory against Yugoslavia while Hungary got better of Brazil in what came to be known as the Battle of Bern. Violent conduct and fighting prompted the referee to send off three players during the match. Fighting between the teams continued in the dressing rooms after the final whistle. Hungary won 4-2 in the match that had 42 free kicks and 2 penalties, with 4 cautions and 3 dismissals. In the Semi-Finals, Germany won 6-1 against Austria while Hungary after leading two nil until the 74th minute against Uruguay conceded two late goals and needed extra time to reach the final. 

Hungary due to their unbeaten record and their thumping Group stage win against West Germany were clear and obvious favourites to win the big prize. The match was played in heavy rain throughout the 90 minutes. Hungary to no ones surprise took a 2 goal lead just 8 minutes into the game through Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor. The Germans Equalised in no time courtesy of goals by Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn. The score remained two all at the end of the 1st half. In the 2nd half, the Hungarians came out with much more attacking intent but failed to find the back of the net. It was the Germans who took the lead in the 84th minute after Rahn got his second goal of the night. Puskas almost immediately appeared to have Equalised but the goal was ruled offside. The game ended 3-2 and German captain Fritz Walter lifted the cup.

The match itself caused a lot of controversies mainly due to a couple of referee William Ling's decisions which included foul play during Hungary's equaliser which should have been enough to disallow their goal. Eyewitness accounts differ on whether Puskás late equaliser was offside. The official television footage allows no clear verdict, as it fails to show Puskás' position at the moment when the ball was passed. 

Immediately after the match, rumours emerged that the German team had taken performance-enhancing substances. Several members of the team fell ill with jaundice, presumably from a contaminated needle. Members of the team later claimed they had been injected glucose, and the team physician Franz Loogen said in 2004 that the players had only been given Vitamin C before the game. Regardless of the allegations doping was not illegal in 1954, with doping controls introduced by FIFA only in 1966. 

The win earned Germany its first of four World Cup titles, with the other titles to follow in 1974 and 1990 as West Germany, and in 2014 as reunified Germany. For Hungary, the second place in 1954 remains the best World Cup result to date.

The 1954 final is often listed as one of the greatest matches in World Cup history, and also one of its most unexpected upsets. Beyond football, some historians ascribe the match a lasting impact on both German and Hungarian post-World War II history, contributing in West Germany to a sense of regained international recognition after the lost Second World War.

Stay tuned to the Football History section for more stories.

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