To begin with, while all the other sides were wearing boots that were designed to protect players’ feet, usually riding above the ankle area like modern day American football shoes, a German company supplied their national team with an avant-garde new boot that distinguished itself as a lighter boot. The innovative footwear that focused on agility also came with interchangeable studs that suited different climates. This brand was, and still is, called adidas.
Playing in their first soccer tournament since 1938 due to being barred from participation after WWII, even the fancy footwear couldn’t salvage the Germans on the pitch. They were annihilated 8-3 by mighty Hungary, led by captain and talismanic striker Ferenc Puskas, but still managed to navigate their way to the Final, a rematch with the same Hungarian team.
By the time the final arrived on an overcast Sunday on July 4 1954, Puskas was an injury concern, having suffered a hairline fracture in his foot in the group stage match against the Germans. The Mighty Magyars, as the Hungarians were known at the time, couldn’t risk leaving out their star player and coach Gustav Sebes insisted on playing him. The decision paid off as he scored the first goal, which was soon followed by a second by Zoltan Czibor, and the Hungarians were up 2-0 before ten minutes were even played. Hungary, the favorites to win the tournament, already had one foot on the winner’s dais with 82 minutes to play.
As the game would unfold, the Germans scored two quick goals soon after to equalize by the 18th minute, before scoring the winner six minutes from time. Puskas scored what appeared to be a late equalizer, but it was ruled out for offside. Due to poor television replay technology at the time, no real decision could be deduced about whether it really was offside or not. The score at full-time ended up 3-2, and the Germans would lift their first ever World Cup trophy.
It wasn’t Puskas’ disallowed goal and neither was it Germany’s pioneering footwear that better adapted them to the slippery pitch that questions the eligibility of their World Cup victory. It’s far more soiled than that.
After the tournament’s favorites walked away with their heads hung low and noses to the ground, the jubilant Germans were celebrating their return to the international stage with the biggest victory in soccer. But at the Wankdorf stadium in Berne, in the Germans’ locker room to be more precise, “syringes and needles were found.” Hungarian captain Puskas had a feeling there may have been foul play on his counterpart’s side, but the German doctor only admitted to “merely inject[ing] a placebo” to his boys.