Host nation: Switzerland Games: 26 Goals: 140 (5.38 per match) Dismissals: 3 Venues: 6 Winners: West Germany Top scorer: Sandor Kocsis (11 goals) No World Cup favourites have been hotter than Hungary in 1954. They were unbeaten in 31 matches, Olympic champions and had twice thumped England in the nine months before these finals. Gusztav Sebes’ team were so good they effectively played a different sport. Revolutionary deep-lying forward Nandor Hidegkuti distracted the centre-halves and Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis were lethal in front of goal, with Jozsef Bozsik an early box-to-box midfielder. They beat South Korea 9-0 (still a World Cup record) in their opener, and not even injury to Puskas in an 8-3 group-stage victory against West Germany could get in the way of the Magical Magyars’ procession to the title. Could it?
Away from the Hungarians, Brazil pair Nilton and Djalma Santos were reinventing modern full-back play, as was West Germany captain Fritz Walter, a genius in wet weather. England’s Billy Wright was at his peak, Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney (top) ageing football royalty.
Lefter Kucukandonyadis’ volley from the edge of the penalty area for Turkey in a 7-0 rout of South Korea stood out. Brazilian winger Julinho backed up a mazy group-stage dribble and thunderous cross-shot against Mexico with another show-stopper against eventual finalists Hungary in the last eight.
The Battle of Berne’s brutality between attacking heavyweights Brazil and Hungary in the last eight (above right) ended with 42 increasingly violent fouls, four cautions and three dismissals. The injured Puskas later burst into Brazil’s dressing room, opening up Pinheiro’s forehead with a bottle as fighting continued.
Three-up inside 20 minutes, Switzerland lost 7-5 to Austria in the last eight, their centre-half Roger Bocquet playing “in a sort of trance”. It transpired that the skipper needed an operation to remove a tumour. It remains the highest-scoring World Cup game.
Half-fit captain Puskas demanded to play against the West Germans, whom Hungary had thrashed 8-3 in the group. Two-nil down in eight minutes, West Germany roared back, with the never-say-die spirit of Fritz Walter (right) as the heavens opened critical to victory. Helmut Rahn’s late strike sealed the World Cup's biggest shock.
Films were made about the ‘Miracle of Berne’ and West Germany’s post-war rebirth. It was the first final shown live, and defeat sowed the seeds for the Hungarian uprising two years later.