The DFB's major titles: Football World Cup 1954

“The miracle of Berne” – Triumph for all eternity

Magazine, 27.10.2022

On 4 July 1954, the unthinkable happens: Germany wins the football World Cup. For the first time ever, the German national team becomes world champions and sends the whole country into a wave of euphoria, bringing new strength to the nation in difficult times.

1954 World Cup

This victory showed just what can be achieved with great energy and a common will to win. Nine years after losing the war and the resulting upheaval, the first major success in the history of German football acts as a kind of liberation that restores the lost self-confidence to the people of the country.

Initially, though, things had looked quite different. Only the greatest of optimists would have seen Germany as a contender for the title among the 16 teams that had qualified for the finals in Switzerland. The team struggled on the pitch and trainer Sepp Herberger was attracting criticism from all sides. While other countries were playing well, the Germans fought their way from game to game, from round to round.

The “Spirit of Spiez“

How events unfolded: Although the German team had beaten Turkey 4-1 in its opening group game, they were humbled three days later by the Hungarians, who thrashed them 8-3. No great surprise really, as Sepp Herberger had opted to field a reserve side for this encounter. Criticism from back home grew louder, but helped to forge a strong mentality and spirit between trainer and players. This was the start of the “Spirit of Spiez” – named after the town the German team stayed in at the legendary Hotel Belvedere. This spirit is still considered the winning formula for the remainder of Germany’s tournament. A decisive 7-2 victory over Turkey saw Germany go through to the quarter-finals.

The next sensation came in a hard-fought 2-0 win over Yugoslavia, a true heavyweight in world football at the time. Two players in particular played a major part in this success. Firstly, goalkeeper Toni Turek, who for good reason came to be known as a “football god”. He repeatedly thwarted opponents with a string of fantastic saves. The other was Helmut Rahn, whose late goal to make it 2-0 finally put this very tight game beyond the Yugoslavians. German self-confidence was high as they approached the semi-final against the favoured Austrians. The German team played intoxicating football and blew Austria away by 6 goals to 1. Goals by Hans Schäfer, Max Morlock and a brace each for the Walter brothers, Fritz and Ottmar, sealed Germany’s place in the final.

The miracle comes true

Showdown in Berne’s Wankdorf Stadium: The final is a rematch against Hungary, the “Magical Magyars”, who had to play extra time in their semi-final against Uruguay. Memories of the thrashing by Hungary in the group stages just three weeks earlier are still fresh in the minds of the German players. As brilliant as ever, Hungary race into a two-goal lead. However, Germany fight back and goals by Morlock and Rahn restore parity before half time. The weather gods favour Sepp Herberger’s team in the second half. As the rain becomes heavier, their dominance grows. In what came to be known as “Fritz Walter weather”, Helmut Rahn scores his second to make it 3-2 late in the game and secure the World Cup for Germany. Many will still remember the emotional cries of “goal, goal goal” by legendary sports reporter Herbert Zimmermann.

(Text: Martin Sulkowsky / Lothar Grimm)

A strong team can achieve anything

The German national football team has won the World Cup four times – in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014. ERGO is an official partner of the national team and is commemorating these great triumphs in a series of articles.

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