Two of these strong attacking teams were to face one another in the semifinal: Hungary and the defending world champions of Uruguay.
The South Americans had arrived to Switzerland with an experienced team that was, if anything, stronger than the side that had won in Marcaná four year ago. In the first round the Uruguayans had destroyed Scotland 7-0, defeated Czechoslovakia 2-0, and in the quarterfinal played an extraordinary game against the always-strong English, and won 4-2.
At this point, before the semi-final, Uruguay could in fact bring forth the fact that they had never lost a match in a World Cup!
Hungary was nevertheless not going to be an easy match. The Central Europeans were undefeated in nearly four years, and had even been the first team to defeat England at Wembley, 6-3 in 1953.
The team was indeed the envy of the entire world.
In their first three matches the Hungarians had scored a staggering 21 goals, winning 8-3 against West Germany, 9-0 against South Corea, and 4-2 against Brazil in a match that came to be known as the “Battle of Bern”, one of the most disgraceful matches in World Cup history.
To this day, Hungary remains the team that has had the highest goal-scoring average in a World Cup, and Sándor Koscis, the top-scorer of the tournament with 11 goals, the most prolific player per match with 2.2 goals!
The match between Uruguay and Hungary was to be an hommage to the game, with many at the time calling it the best match in history. It was undoubtfully the match that any football-fan would have preferred as the final. And this was even the case as two of the stars were unable to play the final: Hungary’s playmaker Ferenc Puskas and the Uruguayans legendary captain Obdulio Varela were both out due to injury.
The Hungarians started attacking feverishly, and seemed they would overrun the Uruguayans. After 13 minutes this bore fruit as Zoltán Czibor received a header from Sándor Kocsis in the area, and cooly placed the ball in the left-hand corner.
After 1-0 at half-time, in the first minute of the second half Hungary seemed to have sealed off the match when the three-time goalscorer from Wembley, Nándor Hidegkuti, scored on a spectacular diving header.
However, the Uruguayans had learned never to give up, and the legendary Juan Alberto Schiaffino on a confident side, that managed to put pressure on the Hungarians. Only fifteen minutes before the end Juan Hohberg got space in between two defenders on a pass by Schiaffino and scored.
Uruguay was now full of confidence while the Hungarian masters looked shaky. Four minutes before the end Juan Hohberg again sqeezed in between the two central defenders and scored the equalizer for Uruguay amid the desperate Hungarian defenders. According to legend, Hohberg passed out from the excitement and fatigue of the goal!
The match had completely changed, and had to go into extra time, and at first it seemed that the Uruguayans had everything going for them: Uruguay had been milimeters from going ahead when they in an extraordinary Hohberg-Schiaffino combination hit the post. However, the Hungarian magicians then started exerting more pressure, and Sándor Kocsis scored twice on headers, to give Hungary the 4-2 victory that brought them into the semi-final.
Uruguay’s players were graceful in their defeat to the best team in the world: the great half-back Jószef Bozsik, later recalled how he had almost cried of emotion when Schiaffino came to congratulate him at the end of the match: “It was the most beautiful, the most humane match of my life.”
Many commentators agreed, and at the time many people remembered this as the match of the century.
- 30th June, 1954, La Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland
- Attendance: 37,000
- Referee: Benjamin Griffiths (Wales)
Goals:1-0 Czibor (13), 2-0 Hidegkuti (46), 2-1 Hohberg (75), 2-2 Hohberg (86), 3-2 Kocsis (111), 4-2 Kocsis (116)
Hungary: Grosics; Lorant, Buzanski, Lantos, Bozsik, Zakarias, Kocsis, Czibor, Hidegkuti, Budai, Palotas
Uruguay: Maspoli; Santamaria, Martinez, Andrade, Hohberg, Schiaffino, Cruz, Carballo, Borges, Ambrois, Sauto