The Miracle of Bern

Soccer has had an illustrious history that quite often intertwines with politics. Refusal of the Home Nations to join FIFA until 1950 because they did not want to play teams that they were fighting against to the kerfuffle in the French and Irish governments over Thierry Henry’s handball assist in the 2010 World Cup qualifying playoff, there have been many incidents in soccer that have had ripples from the world of sports into the world of international politics. One of these instances is considered one of hte best soccer games ever played: the 1954 World Cup final match.

The 1954 World Cup final was considered the height of the many achievemtns that the Hungarian team had made over the past several years. The Magical Magyars as they were known had claimed many world records; some that have not been broken since then. The Hungarian team had reached the strongest Elo rating ever for a national soccer team (which it still holds today) had gone unbeaten for 32 games prior to the World Cup, and gave England its first loss to a team outside the British Isles in 1953. In the 1954 World Cup itself, Hungary became the first non-South American team to beat defending champions Urugauy in the quarterfinals. In the semi-final, the Magical Magyars beat Brazil, the runners up in the 1950 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the West German national team making their first appearance in the World Cup after WWII. They had managed to progress to the final match after having received an 8-3 defeat to Hungary in the group stage (admittedly, West Germany played a reserve side in that match) by defeating Turkey twice in the group stage and Yugoslavia and Austria in the quarter and semifinal. As they reached the final, they were the clear underdog against heavily favorited Hungary.

The match itself had the score tied at 2-2 within the first twenty minutes. The score remained tied for much of the rest of the game until West Germany scored in the 84th minute and won the game 3-2. The victory gave West Germany (and Germany) their first ever World Cup title and lifted the spirits of the entire country. Coming only five years after the Allied occupation zones, the Germans now had a new rallying point for the German national identity. The final match marked the first time after WWII that the German national anthem was played in public and could be considered as a sign that the Nazi era of Germany was finally over and a new nation had risen in its place.

In Hungary, the loss did not have many societal effects as the Hungarian team continued its phenomenal run. However, the Magical Magyars came to an end in 1956 during and after the Hungarian Revolution. Many of the players in the team including Ference Puskas and Sandor Kocsis defected to the West in the years following the Hungarian Revolution. However, the legend of the team and the game lives on. Today, the Hungarian team is remembered as one of the best national soccer teams of all time. Hungary’s quarterfinal and semifinal games in the 1954 World Cup as well as the Miracle of Bern are three of the top ten highest rated national matches ever. This makes the upset by West Germany in the Miracle of Bern all the more impressive and makes it undoubtedly one of the most revered matches in association football.

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