Austria, 1934 World Cup
Coach: Hugo Meisl
Achievements: Central European International Cup 1932; Semi-finals 1934 World Cup; Silver medal 1936 Olympics
Key Players: Sindelar, Bican, Schall Smistik
Star Player: Sindelar
Wunderteam was the name given to the Austria national football team of the 1930s. Led by manager Hugo Meisl, the team had an unbeaten streak of 14 games between April 1931 and December 1932. The style of the team was based on the Scottish school of football that focused on quick passing introduced by Englishman Jimmy Hogan. The forward line was complemented by wide half-backs and an attacking centre-half. Matthias Sindelar, Josef Smistik and Walter Nausch formed the core of the team that would dominate European football during that era. Matthias Sindelar, known as Der Papierene (The Papery Man) due to his slight build, was the star and captain of the team. Pepe Bican remians one of the most prolific goalscorers of all time.
In the early 1930s, Austria became a very celebrated team in Europe. They entered the 1934 World Cup as the clear favorites. They had routed many of their opponents, including a 5-0 and a 6-0 victory over Germany, a 6-0 victory over Switzerland, and a 8-2 victory over Hungary. They also won the Central European International Cup, predecessor of the European Championship, by beating Italy 4-2 in 1932. The cup was to be Wunderteam's only championship win. They also took the silver medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics.
In the quarter-final of the 1934 World Cup they eliminated Hungary, which was then a football power, and the runner-up in 1938. Like the Golden Team of Hungary 20 years later, Austria failed to lift the World Cup trophy, despite playing beautiful football. They were eliminated by the eventual champion Italy in the semi-final, a match under poor weather conditions that limited their movement of the ball. The only score came when the Austrian goalkeeper was pushed over the line. Referee Ivan Eklind was criticized for partiality toward the host nation, especially after he also refereed the final which Italy also won.
World War II and the end of the team The death of Hugo Meisl in 1937 marked the beginning of the end. Austria qualified for the 1938 World Cup finals, but they withdrew after the March 1938 Anschluss to Nazi Germany. This meant that Austria then ceased to exist as a football nation. Matthias Sindelar, who did not play for Germany, was found dead in his home in 1939, under circumstances that have been debated since.
(Further information: Matthias Sindelar#Death and myth).