1954 FIFA World Cup (partially found footage of international football matches; 1954)

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Italian programme cover of the 1954 World Cup.

Status: Partially Found

The 1954 FIFA World Cup was the fifth running of what is generally considered football's most prestigious tournament. Occurring from 16th June-4th July 1954 in Switzerland, the Final saw West Germany defeat Hungary 3-2 to claim its first World Cup, in what is also considered one of the World Cup's biggest ever upsets. Additionally, the 1954 edition was the first to receive live television coverage, courtesy of the Eurovision Network.


Heading into the final tournament, Switzerland and Uruguay had qualified automatically as hosts and defending champions respectively.[1][2] A further 14 teams from Europe, South America, Asia, and North America would join them.[2][1] Some of the qualifying outcomes were unusual; for instance, England and Scotland qualified based on results from another tournament, the 1953-54 British Home Championship.[2][1] Turkey qualified at Spain's expense after losing 4-1 in the first game, winning 1-0 in the second, and drawing 2-2 in the play-off.[3][2][1] Despite an inferior goal difference, the team made it to Switzerland via the drawing of lots, the only instance where World Cup qualification has been decided in this fashion.[3][2][1] Favourites Hungary with their Golden Squad did not even need to play a single game to advance, as group members Iceland and Poland could not compete.[4][5][2][1] Meanwhile, West Germany entered qualification after being banned from the 1950 edition.[4][2] They overcame Norway and Saar to reach the tournament proper.[2][4][1]

Meanwhile, the Eurovision Network was launched on 6th June that same year.[6] The television network, controlled by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), was designed to provide pan-European broadcasts to EBU members.[7][8][9][6] The 1954 FIFA World Cup would become one of Eurovision's first major broadcasts, with the Swiss Television Service (STS) tasked to provide the main coverage.[7][8][9] However, there was a problem: Switzerland had only launched its television service in November 1953, and had only provided one significant outside broadcast prior to the World Cup.[7] Therefore, the BBC provided significant assistance, sending producer Alan Chivers to the country to prepare the hosts on providing live coverage.[7] Under his hands-on guidance, the STS' production team became adept at broadcasting the matches, deemed crucial considering constraints such as language barrier, the BBC's need for Chivers to promptly return for its own Summer sports airings, and how "the quick coverage of football depends on teamwork between the producer and cameramen."[7] In fact, the only BBC employee required by the World Cup's end was main camera operator Bill Wright, who helped capture close-up player shots.[7]

Aside from being broadcast from Switzerland and relayed to the United Kingdom, the Eurovision Network also reached Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and West Germany, who would all provide their own commentaries.[7][8][9] The BBC relayed eight matches live, with commentary provided by Kenneth Wolstenholme.[10][7][9] These included France vs Yugoslavia; England vs Belgium; Uruguay vs Scotland; the Hungary-West Germany Group match; England vs Uruguay; Hungary vs Brazil; West Germany vs Austria; and the World Cup Final.[10][7] Additionally, a few filmed highlights of matches such as the Hungary-Uruguay game also reached British airwaves.[10][7] Wolstenholme received attention for his commentary on some matches.[7] Among this included criticism for his harsh comments over Scotland's performance against Uruguay, and his praise of English referee Arthur Ellis over his handling of the infamous Hungary-Brazil game.[7]

Overall, the World Cup television coverage, the first in the tournament's history, had its limitations.[11][9][7][8] Most coverage focused exclusively on the second-half, with match broadcasts based on Eurovision's selections with no input from national TV outlets.[9] Still, when also considering the general reliability of the broadcasts, the airings were widely praised and seen as a pivotal step towards the development of future pan-European broadcasts, especially regarding sport.[7][8][9][2] While overall television viewership remained low due to the costs of television sets, the World Cup did influence the rapid development of German television.[12][11] Thanks to coverage surrounding West Germany's run in the tournament, demand for televisions exploded, causing the number of television sets in the country to rise from 11,658 in January 1954 to 84,278 by December that same year.[12]

The Tournament

Beginning on 16th June, the Group Stage matches followed an unusual format.[2][4][5] Teams were split into four groups of four, where the two seeded teams would play against the unseeded opposition.[2][4][5] Extra time was played in the event 90 minutes could not decide a winner.[13][2] Should ties for second place have emerged following the games, play-off matches commence to determine who reaches the Knockout Stage.[4][2][13] The seeded teams were Austria, Brazil, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Uruguay, and strangely Turkey, having been selected after FIFA had previously awarded Spain the final slot and were surprised when the nation was knocked out.[2][4][5][13] Ultimately, this Group format was decidedly unpopular, especially as it led to a Knockout stage where group winners were immediately drawn against each other.[4][5][13]

In Group 1, Brazil thrashed Mexico 5-0, while France were edged out 1-0 by Yugoslavia.[2][13] A 1-1 draw between the group leaders guaranteed they reached the knockout stage, nullifying France's 3-2 victory against Mexico.[2][13] Hungary and West Germany were both placed in Group 2.[4][2][5][13] After they dominated South Korea and Turkey 9-0 and 4-1 respectively, the pair first met on 20th June.[2][4][5][13] West Germany's Sepp Herberger, believing his team had a low chance of defeating the Hungarians but presumed his nation could easily win a play-off, decided to rest his top players by putting his reserve team against the Golden Squad.[4][5] Hence, Hungary annihilated the Germans, winning 8-3.[4][2][5][13] This meant that West Germany were level on points with Turkey, who won 7-0 versus South Korea.[2][5][13] Thus, they played Turkey again, with Herberger's decision paying off with a comfortable 7-2 victory.[2][5][13]

Uruguay and Austria edged out Czechoslovakia and Scotland in their respective opening Group 3 games, and would both easily qualify after Uruguay dominated a managerless Scotland 7-0, while Austria beat Czechoslovakia 5-0.[2][13][7] Wolstenholme criticised Scotland for being "a team without fight" and for lacking skill.[7] Finally, Group 4 saw Switzerland edge out Italy 2-1, while England and Belgium played to a 4-4 draw.[2][13] After Italy defeated Belgium 4-1 and Switzerland lost 2-0 to England, another rematch emerged to decide who followed England to the Quarter-Finals.[2][13] In this encounter, the hosts overcame Italy 4-1.[2][13] The last eight witnessed two famous encounters.[14][4][5] The first, pitting Austria against Switzerland, saw the highest goal scoreline ever recorded in a World Cup match, with Austria's Theodor Wagner and Switzerland's Josef Hügi both scoring hattricks.[14][13] Despite being down 3-0 after 20 minutes, Austria launched a strong comeback to ultimately prevail 7-5 against the hosts.[13][4] Uruguay continued its title defence with a 4-2 victory over England, while West Germany defeated Yugoslavia 2-0.[14][13][4]

Finally, Hungary met Brazil, both teams regarded by some commentators as worthy of reaching the Final.[14][5] The game is nicknamed "The Battle of Berne" following an unsporting occasion which saw players fighting, a pitch invasion, and many fouls that resulted in 42 free kicks, two penalties, and three sending offs.[14][7][4][5] Goals from Nándor Hidegkuti, Sándor Kocsis, and Mihály Lantos gave Hungary a 4-2 win.[14][4][5][13] However, the result only intensified matters post-match, with another pitch invasion forcing police intervention, as well as a dressing room fight between the two sides.[14][5] Wolstenholme widely praised referee Arthur Ellis, claiming his actions made England "the most popular nation here", a view echoed by the Swiss.[7] No action was ultimately taken against the teams by FIFA or the Hungarian and Brazilian FAs.[7][5] Following this, West Germany booked their place in the Final with a conclusive 6-1 victory against Austria.[4][14][13] Meanwhile, it looked as if Uruguay's title defence was to finally end after being down 2-0 with only 15 minutes remaining.[4][14][13] However, two goals from Juan Hohberg forced extra-time.[4][14][13] Alas, Kocsis scored twice to send Hungary through and give Uruguay's first ever loss at the World Cup.[15][13][4][14][7] In the Third-Place Playoff, Austria defeated Uruguay 3-1, in what was the 100th World Cup match.[13][14]

On 4th July, West Germany and Hungary met once more, neither side having previously won the World Cup.[16][4][14][13] Hungary were favourites, considering their Golden Squad was unbeaten in 32 games, record over West Germany, and also being the Olympic champions.[14][4] The team made a tantalising start; a close-range strike from Ferenc Puskás and Zoltán Czibor's exploitation of the West German defence's miscommunication put them ahead 2-0 after eight minutes.[16][14][4][5][13] However, after the ball was crossed into the Hungary centre, Max Morlock pulled one back from a rebound attack.[16][4][14] After 18 minutes, a corner kick in the Hungarian box saw Hans Schäfer collide with Hungary goalkeeper Gyula Grosics.[16][4] No foul was given, while also exposing the goal that enabled Helmut Rahn to level proceedings.[16][14][4][13]

Despite blowing a 2-0 lead, Hungary remained on top throughout most of the game.[16][4][13] Statistics-wise, Hungary were in control concerning possession, overall shots and shots on-target, but the West German defence held strong. Then, with six minutes remaining, Schäfer fired a cross into the penalty box.[16][4][14] Rahn out-psyched by going for goal instead of passing, scoring his second and making it 3-2 to West Germany.[16][14][4][5][13] Two minutes afterwards, it appeared Hungary had equalised courtesy of Puskás, but in a move widely debated to this day, it was ruled offside.[16][5][14][4] Despite a few more chances, Hungary were unable to equalise, giving West Germany its first World Cup.[16][14][5][4][13] The match is nicknamed "The Miracle of Bern", known as such due to West Germany's seemingly unlikely comeback victory against the odds-on favourite.[4][14][5] This also marked the end of the Golden Squad's prime, described as one of the greatest teams never to win the World Cup.[5]


Television coverage of the 1954 World Cup typically ranged from airing the second half live to the full match.[9] Based on Issue 1,599 of Radio Times, the entirety of the Final was aired live.[17][18] However, while telerecordings were possible during this time period, they seldom occurred until later in the decade with the advent of videotape.[19] Most coverage of the matches, including the Final, has been lost to time. Nevertheless, thanks to newsreels, surviving television coverage, and other available footage including from FIFA's official film of the World Cup, highlights of most key matches remains publicly available. This has enabled partial reconstructions of the Final; for instance, YouTuber dudd1982 made a video combining surviving match footage with photos and commentaries, providing the most substantial coverage that is currently available online.




FIFA film of the 1954 World Cup.

dudd1982 reconstruction of the Final, using surviving footage and photos.

Some of the goals scored at the 1954 World Cup.

Yugoslavia vs France.

Brazil vs Mexico.

Brazil vs Yugoslavia (1/2).

Brazil vs Yugoslavia (2/2).

France vs Mexico.

West Germany vs Turkey (1st game).

Hungary vs South Korea.

Hungary vs West Germany (1st game 1/2).

Hungary vs West Germany (1st game 2/2).

Turkey vs South Korea.

West Germany vs Turkey (playoff game).

Uruguay vs Czechoslovakia.

Austria vs Scotland.

Uruguay vs Scotland.

Austria vs Czechoslovakia.

Switzerland vs Italy (1st game).

England vs Belgium.

Italy vs Belgium.

England vs Switzerland.

Switzerland vs Italy (playoff game).

Austria vs Switzerland (1/2).

Austria vs Switzerland (2/2).

Uruguay vs England.

West Germany vs Yugoslavia (1/2).

West Germany vs Yugoslavia (2/2).

Hungary vs Brazil (1/2).

Hungary vs Brazil (2/2).

West Germany vs Austria (1/2).

West Germany vs Austria (2/2).

Hungary vs Uruguay.

Austria vs Uruguay.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 RSSSF detailing qualifying for the 1954 World Cup. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 Football Pink summarising the qualification and Group Stage matches. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 FIFA detailing how Turkey qualified over Spain. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 The Guardian summarising the 1954 World Cup and the Miracle of Bern. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 The Guardian detailing the Golden Squad and considering the team the greatest never to win the World Cup. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 Red Shark News summarising the launch and history of the Eurovision Network. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 BBC Sport in Black and White detailing how the Eurovision and BBC coverage was achieved. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 The Eurovision Song Contest as a Cultural Phenomenon summarising the start of the Eurovision Network and its success starting with the 1954 World Cup. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 The Guardian detailing the television coverage of this World Cup, and its limitations. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues listing all of the BBC's match broadcasts relayed from the Swiss Television Service transmissions. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Football Book noting this was the first televised World Cup and that it received limited viewership overall. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 German Football detailing how coverage of the 1954 World Cup caused a rapid rise for German television. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 13.18 13.19 13.20 13.21 13.22 13.23 13.24 13.25 13.26 13.27 13.28 13.29 RSSSF detailing the results of the World Cup. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 14.16 14.17 14.18 14.19 14.20 14.21 Football Pink detailing the 1954 World Cup from the Quarter-Finals onwards. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  15. Football Culture noting Uruguay's loss to Hungary was its first ever World Cup loss. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 16.9 Spielverlagerung providing an analysis of the Final (article in German). Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  17. BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues detailing the BBC's broadcast of the 1954 World Cup Final. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  18. Issue 1,599 of Radio Times listing the BBC's coverage of the Final. Retrieved 21st Feb '23
  19. Web Archive article discussing how most early television is missing due to a lack of directly recording television. Retrieved 21st Feb '23