- 16 Jun 08, 09:00 AM
I never knew Austria were once quite good at football. It took a painting - apparently a very famous one here - that opened my eyes to that fact.
Anyway, here it is, courtesy of Getty Images:
The Wunderteam, coached by Hugo Meisl, earned their moniker for going 14 games unbeaten between April 1931 and December 1932. Captained by Matthias SIndelar, nicknamed "Man of Paper", their run eventually came to an end when they were blown away 4-3 by England at Stamford Bridge.
Ironically, it was an Englishman, Jimmy Hogan, who helped Meisl craft a team that continues to inspire Austrians today. Some even believe this side was the very first to play Total Football, though the Dutch will no doubt disagree.
Hogan, who also coached Aston Villa, was a decent footballer, reaching the FA Cup semi-final with Fulham in 1908. But it was as a coach he shone. A big fan of keeping the ball on the deck - known as the 'Scottish passing game' in those days - he joined forces with Meisl to take the Austrians to unprecedented heights. No mean achievement for an Alpine nation.
Given their progress under Meisl and Hogan, Austria entered the 1934 World Cup in Italy as clear favourites. Everything was going swimmingly, too, until they reached the semi-finals. But then the weather and the host nation conspired to beat them. It's always the good teams - the ones that like to pass to feet - that struggle when the rain falls and turns the pitch to mush.
That was pretty much the beginning of the end for the Wunderteam. They reached the Olympic final in 1936 under Hogan. But then World War Two broke out and that was pretty much it. You know the rest. Germany annexed Austria...
Thankfully, Meisl wasn't around to see the final curtain come down on his beloved team. He died in 1937.
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