Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Das Wunderteam, Mattias Sindelar & Total Football

Das Wunderteam, Mattias Sindelar & Total Football

Something to whet your appetite in this World Cup year

Austria's national football team in the 1930s, Das Wunderteam, was managed by Hugo Meisl ( a Banker's son who was a football innovator and connoisseur )

In some quarters, Meisl and his Wunderteam are considered to be the “godfathers of total football” They were pioneers of the flexible, passing style that inspired Hungary in the 1950s and was taken to its dizzy heights by Holland in the 1970s and Spain in the past six years.

Just like Hungary in 1954 and Holland in 1974, the Austrian Wunderteam of the early 1930s will forever be known as the World champions that never were

The real jewel in Austria’s side was Matthias Sindelar, “Der Papierne” (the paper man) - he got this nickname from his slight, almost gaunt frame

He was also referred to as 'The Mozart of football' 8-|

Willy Meisl ( Hugo's brother) described him thus:

"Technique bordering on virtuosity, precision work and an inexhaustible repertoire of tricks and ideas. He had a boyish delight in soccer exploits, above all in unexpected twists and moves which were quickly understood and shared by his partners brought up on the same wavelength, but were baffling to an opposition only a fraction of a second slower."

The Wunderteam: May 1931 to June 1934

Check out the 'notable scalps' they took and the wide score margins at the peak of their powers ( 1931-1932). This remarkable series of results also included two emphatic routs of Germany, who were outclassed 6-0 in Berlin and 5-0 in Vienna. However, the highlight of the run is traditionally seen as the 5-0 drubbing of Scotland on 16 May 1931 in Vienna, as it was the first time Scotland tasted defeat on the continent. Hungary were also humbled in an 8-2 thrashing, while Switzerland were swept aside 8-1 in Basel. Between April 1931 and June 1934, the Wunderteam lost just three out of 31 games, scoring 101 goals.


16 May 1931 Austria 5-0 Scotland

24 May 1931 Germany 0-6 Austria

16 June 1931 Austria 2-0 Switzerland

13 Sept 1931 Austria 5-0 Germany

4 Oct 1931 Hungary 2-2 Austria

29 Nov 1931 Switzerland 1-8 Austria

20 Mar 1932 Austria 2-1 Italy

24 April 1932 Austria 8-2 Hungary

22 May 1932 Czechoslovakia 1-1 Austria

17 July 1932 Sweden 3-4 Austria

2 Oct 1932 Hungary 2-3 Austria

23 Oct 1932 Austria 3-1 Switzerland

7 Dec 1932 England 4-3 Austria

11 Dec 1932 Belgium 1-6 Austria

12 Feb 1933 France 0-4 Austria

9 Apr 1933 Austria 1-2 Czechoslovakia

30 Apr 1933 Hungary 1-1 Austria

11 Jun 1933 Austria 4-1 Belgium

17 Sep 1933 Czechoslovakia 3-3 Austria

1 Oct 1933 Austria 2-2 Hungary

29 Nov 1933 Scotland 2-2 Austria

10 Dec 1933 Holland 0-1 Austria

11 Feb 1934 Italy 2-4 Austria

25 Mar 1934 Switzerland 2-3 Austria

15 Apr 1934 Austria 5-2 Hungary

25 Apr 1934 Austria 6-1 Bulgaria

27 May 1934 Austria 3-2 France

31 May 1934 Austria 2-1 Bologna

3 Jun 1934 Italy 1-0 Austria ( World Cup semi final )

Possible reason for their failure to win the World Cup in 1934:

Central Europe was a hotbed of unrest in the 1930s and Germany was about to come under the spell of Adolf Hitler.

Thus football was relegated to the background as bouts of aggression, appeasement and real-politik took centre stage

There was also a short civil war in Austria, in February 1934

It is believed that this had a negative impact on the Wunderteam

The team that travelled to Italy for 1934 World Cup was definitely a shadow of itself.

They laboured through two rounds, beating France 3-2 and Hungary 2-1 in the quarter-finals

The quarter-final triumph in Bologna was a particularly bruising encounter. Meisl called it 'a brawl, not a football match,' and his team would rue the lingering injuries they picked up there.

To make matters worse, before the semi-final against Italy, the heavens opened and a deluge of rain swamped the pitch. The conditions were a crushing blow for the fatigued Austrians who loved to play on the grass.

They also lost their midfield dynamo Johann Horvath to injury -following the last match. Despite all these, Austria had their fair share of chances - some reports have say that Italian goalkeeper Giampiero Combi saved close to two dozen shots - Enrico Guaita's 10th-minute Azzurri goal held up 1-0, and Meisl, Sindelar and the Wunderteam would never truly cement their status in FIFA World Cup history.

Two years later Austria reached the final at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. However, once again it was Italy who denied Meisl and his men. The final, which ended in a 1-2 defeat remains to this day, the only time Austria have reached the ultimate match of a major international football tournament.

On 24 January 1937, Hugo Meisl took his place on the Austrian bench for the last time. And his team gifted him a farewell victory, defeating France 2-1 in Paris. Just weeks later, Hugo Meisl died at the age of 55.

Matthias Sindelar's death

Hitler's Germany annexed Austria in 1938 ( the Anschluss) so the Wunderteam broke up.

It is believed by conspiracy theorists that Sindelar was killed by the Gestapo:

-He was well known for his left-wing views and close association with the Jewish community

- He refused to play for the unified German team

- He taunted Nazi officials when a special reunification game between Germany and Austria took place in Vienna.

On 23 January 1939, he was found dead in his bed, with his girlfriend unconscious (his girlfriend died later) by a friend. Cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Golden boy of Austrian football had met a grisly end.

Das Wunderteam: champions that never were



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