The Hungarian that enabled the Miracle of Bern

The 'Miracle of Bern' is what the West Germans called their victory over huge favorites Hungary in the 1954 World Cup final. Managing to overcome a two goal deficit against an opponent that had beaten them 8-3 earlier in the tournament, does indeed qualify as pretty miraculous. It would almost certainly not have been possible without the leadership of their captain, Fritz Walter, a player most people consider second only to Franz Beckenbauer as best ever German footballer. In an irony of history, Walter may never have lived to play that final but for the aid of an Hungarian guard.

Walter had made his debut for Germany as a nineteen year old back in 1940, scoring three goals in a 9-3 defeat of Romania. In spite of there being a war on, he would go on to earn 24 caps and score 19 goals over the two years that followed. That period came to an end when Walter was drafted into the army in 1943. At the end of the war he found himself in a POW camp in the Ukraine, waiting to be deported to a work camp further east. It is estimated up to one in three German soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviets would never see Germany again.

In Pictures - Hughes and Rush beat Spain

Making it to the last four of the 2016 European Championship surely surpassed the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic of Wales fans and players. After all, for decades even qualifying for a major tournament had proved a pipe dream for generations of Welsh internationals. For all the European trophies players like Mike England, John Toshack and Ryan Giggs won with their clubs, they never played a World Cup or European Championship with their country. Neither did Ian Rush and and Mark Hughes, even though they formed an impressive front two in the mid eighties that would have easily walked into the line up of much bigger countries.

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Mark Hughes and Ian Rush pose during a training session before the match against Spain

Unflattering footballer nicknames

Footballer nicknames are all fine and well, until you find yourself stuck with an unflattering one like 'psycho', 'ape', 'calamity' or 'sicknote'. Luckily you're not necessarily stuck with a nasty nickname. Gerd Müller is proof of that. The height challenged German striker was in danger of having to spend his career being known as 'Kleines Dickes'. That was after his first coach at Bayern Munich famously asked 'what am I meant to do with this little fat one', when Muller first entered the club's training ground. Stick him up front and let him shoot at goal, as it turned out. So outstanding was Müller at hammering in the goals, he ended up earning himself the much more flattering nickname 'Der Bomber'.

The opposite happened to William Henry Foulke, the legendary Sheffield United goalkeeper who was active around the turn of the twentieth century. At the start of his career, Foulke was noted mainly for his impressive height. At six foot four he was extremely tall for the period that he lived in. His extraordinary ability to stop even the best placed balls soon earned him the nickname 'the octopus' and a well deserved call up for the English national team.

In Pictures - Maradona plays against Scotland

The 62.000 spectators who attended the friendly between Scotland and Argentina at Hampden Park on June 2nd, 1979 were witnessing history. Unfortunately for them it wasn't a maiden win over Argentina, as the visitors won the match 3-1. What they did witness was a young Diego Maradona scoring his first ever international goal. The fans didn't seem to mind too much, reportedly chanting 'Argentina, Argentina' in recognition of the masterclass put on by the reigning World Champions, and in particular by the 18-year old prodigy in their ranks.

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Diego Maradona on the ball against Scotland at Hampden Park

Playing on with a broken neck

There are plenty of examples of footballers playing on with injuries. No self respecting football hard man is going to let a head wound get the better of him, no matter how enthusiastically the blood may be flowing out of it. The urge to play on no matter what has produced iconic images of Giorgio Chellini, Paul Ince, and off course Terry Butcher, playing with a blood stained shirt and a turban of bandages. But playing on with an broken neck? That’s taking things to a whole other level. Still, that’s exactly what happend at Wembley on the 5th of May 1956, when Manchester City and Birmingham City met in the final of the FA-Cup

In goal for Manchester City that day was the German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann. He had come to England as a prisoner of war during the Second World War. Trautmann had decided to stick around after the war and had stumbled onto a career as a goalkeeper, even though he had only started playing during his time as a POW. After having initially encountered a lot of resistance, he had earned the esteem of crowds and colleagues alike. Trautmann was living up to his reputation, when in the 75th minute, with Manchester leading 3-1, he collided with a Birmingham attacker in a brave attempt to stifle a breakthrough that threatened to throw the game wide open.

In Pictures - Gullit captains Holland in 1988 final

In 1988 an impressively mustachioed Ruud Gullit captained the Dutch national team to victory at Euro 1988. The powerful forward might have expected to be the star of that team, but found himself outshone by Marco van Basten. Gullit contented himself to play in the service of his team, fully living up to his captaincy, but did produce one crucial goal when he opened the score in the final against the Soviet Union.

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Gullit looks for a cross.

Hooliganism makes it to the big stage

Football vandalism has a surprisingly long history, but modern hooliganism is the product of the England of the 1970’s, when crime and violence were rife around football games. The rest of Europe soon found itself introduced to the phenomenon, as British teams travelled to the continent for European cup ties. As authorities struggled to get hooliganism under control, crowd violence led to suspensions from European competition for Leeds United in 1975 and Manchester United in 1977. The World Cups and European Championships held during the decade however, were spared the new violent fan culture. The reason was simple: England had failed to qualify for every major tournament since the 1970 World Cup.

At Euro 1980 England was present for the first time since football hooliganism had exploded into public consciousness. The England team, featuring the likes of Kevin Keegan, Ray Wilkins, Trevor Brooking and Tony Woodcock, was widely counted amongst the favorites. English clubs had won the European Cup four years running, with Liverpool and Nottingham Forest both winning it twice. There was every reason then, to assume that English fans would travel to support their team en masse. About 4500 supporters obtained tickets for England’s first game, in Turin against Belgium, through official channels. But in fact about 8000 Englishmen descended upon Turin and the surrounding area. Any hopes that it might be a peaceful affair soon evaporated as numerous violent confrontations between English fans on the one hand, and Italian fans or police on the other, marred the run up to the game.