Wunderteam and Cordoba: The Austrian sensations

Underdog Austria still glories in the memory of its Wunderteam and the 1978 win in Cordoba over archrival Germany.

updated: June 09, 2008 07:14 IST
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Underdog Austria, which as co-host has won its first-ever ticket to a European football championship, still glories in the memory of its Wunderteam and the 1978 win in Cordoba over archrival Germany.

In the 1930s, Austria's national football team developed into one of the best in the world, scoring a series of spectacular wins and earning the title of Wunderteam (Wonder team).

Under the helm of coach Hugo Meisl, it lifted the Central European International Cup in 1932 and took silver at the 1936 Summer Olympics.

But the team's greatest achievement was its 14-game unbeaten run from April 12, 1931 to October 23, 1932, during which it thrashed many of its greatest European rivals, including Scotland (5-0), Germany (6-0 and 5-0), Switzerland (8-1), Italy (2-1) and Hungary (8-2).

Meisl's death in 1937, and Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria and subsequent dissolution of the national football team spelled an end for the Wunderteam.

But captain Matthias Sindelar and his men are still remembered today as the most successful team in Austrian football history.

Cordoba, meanwhile, resonates among Austrians as the most important victory in the recent history of the sport.

On June 21, 1978, Austria defeated the defending world champions West Germany 3-2 in a second-stage match of the World Cup in Argentina.

Although Austria was eliminated from the tournament, the win also ended the hopes of its northern neighbour, which was still on track to reach the finals before the game.

The match, often painted as a battle between David and Goliath, saw the Austrians defeat Germany for the first time in 47 years and they finished 7th in the final World Cup ranking.

After 30 years, Cordoba remains the country's last victory against a reigning World Champion.

The Austrian players became known as the Heroes of Cordoba and gained national fame, with three of them going on to manage the national team: Herbert Prohaska, Hans Krankl, and current coach Josef Hickersberger.

"A small country achieved something great in football against a big country, that is a proud chapter in our sporting history," Krankl said recently.

Banks and fast food chains are now even proposing special Cordoba products, in the run-up to the Euro - though given the current rating of the present Austrian team it may need something rather more potent to see a repeat of that feat.