Germans’ breakthrough in Bern
Remembering Germany's first FIFA World Cup™ triumph
Seemingly unbeatable Hungary conquered in 'The Miracle of Bern'
"The entire country regained its self-esteem"
On Sunday, Germany lifted the FIFA Confederations Cup for the first time. Though it was one of the few trophies they hadn’t previously claimed, the Saint Petersburg triumph reaffirmed the team’s reputation as football colossuses - and serial winners.
But it wasn’t always this way. When the Germans won their first FIFA World Cup™ in 1954, their status – within football and the wider world – was very different. Even making the short cross-border trip to compete in Switzerland, having been excluded from the tournament in 1950, was challenging.
As Horst Eckel, the youngest player in that West Germany squad, told : “It was difficult for us to travel to Switzerland because in 1954 Germany was not recognised in political, economic or sporting terms [due to the after-effects of the Second World War]. But we didn’t go there and just try not to lose; we wanted to play well and play for Germany.”
In the end, of course, they did a great deal more than that. The Miracle of Bern – the Germans incredible win over a Hungary side unbeaten in four years; a side that had thrashed them 8-3 in the group phase – remains one of the most significant moments in the nation’s sporting history.
“For anybody who grew up in the misery of the post-war years, Bern was an extraordinary inspiration,” explained Franz Beckenbauer. "Suddenly Germany was somebody again. The entire country regained its self-esteem."
The manner of that victory – coming from 2-0 behind to triumph against all odds – also set the standard for future generations, with doggedness and a never-say-die spirit having since become the team’s hallmarks.
But for Eckel and his team-mates, the full, amazing extent of winning the World Cup only became apparent in the days that followed. “We only realised when we got back home,” said the former midfielder, reflecting on remarkable scenes in which thousands upon thousands packed into the streets of Munich to welcome the team. “That’s when we knew we’d done something small to help Germany get back on its feet. And we were very proud of that.”
Did you know? The FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich boasts several unique items from the 1954 World Cup, including the original goal net from the Final and a ticket for this unforgettable match.