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Thursday, July 1, 2010

World Cup Stories- The Battle of Berne 1954

Brazil v Hungary - Quarter Final

England hadn’t lost a home international against any team outside the British Isles in the eighty-three years since they first started playing international soccer in 1870. That was until the Mighty Magyars of Hungary came calling in 1953. Often dubbed ‘The Match of the Century,’ the game wasn’t even close. England lost 6-3, a score line that flattered England.

The Hungarians were the clear cut favorites to win the 1954 Cup in Switzerland. They won their first two games 9-0 and 8-3 and met Brazil in the quarter final, a highly-anticipated match-up between the contrasting styles of what were considered the two best teams in the world.

The Hungarian speed and fluidity proved too much for Brazil’s slower style at the time, and they scored twice in the first seven minutes. Brazil fought back relentlessly with some hard fouls, the game degenerating at times into a series of free kicks; there were an astonishing forty-two fouls called in the whole game. After Brazil scored from a penalty, Hungary scored again in the 60th minute but Brazil narrowed the gap with another strike five minutes later. Then all hell broke loose. A fistfight saw two red cards to Hungary’s Bozsic and Brazil’s Milton Santos. A fourth Hungarian goal secured the win by which time the game had devolved into a free for all; with fistfights and kicking at virtually anything that moved other than the ball.

The fighting wasn't over at the final whistle. The Brazilian team left the field first and smashed all the light bulbs in the tunnel. They then ambushed the Hungarian team in the dark. This time chairs and broken bottles were used as weapons. A few players and an assistant coach required medical attention.

Hungary went on to lose in the final in the Miracle of Berne to West Germany 3-2. Hungary were 2-0 up after eight minutes but Germany tied it in the 19th minute when a foul on the Hungarian goalie wasn't called. Germany scored their third on a lucky bounce on a rain sodden field. A Hungarian equalizer 2 minutes from time was ruled offside after the referee had awarded a goal. Allegations of doping by the Germans at half time were denied but finally admitted in a TV documentary in 2004.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Postscipt: Two years later, the Soviets invaded Hungary while most of the players were on a club trip to Western Europe. Most decided not to return including the great Ferenc Puskas who joined Real Madrid. It was the end of one of the greatest football teams of all time.

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