The Austrian 'Wunderteam' - a team regarded by many footballing historians as the greatest pre-World War II team in Europe.
Masterminded by footballing innovator, Hugo Meisl, they enjoyed a dominant period of superiority across European football in the early 1930s. Playing an entertaining, and highly technical brand of football, their style was revered at a time when the game was undergoing significant change.
It was perhaps no surprise though given the dedication Meisl showed to the sport throughout his life. Operating as general secretary in conjunction with his duties as national head coach, Meisl used his well educated background to help innovate the game.
Hugo Meisl, the most influential figure in European football during the 1st half of the 20th century. pic.twitter.com/FSECkdxR1e— The Antique Football (@AntiqueFootball) August 8, 2014
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The son of a banker, he sacrificed a lucrative career following in his father's footsteps to help modernise the government of football, embedding an infrastructure never seen before.
On March 21, 1927, Meisl drew up the rules for the Mitropa Cup, a precurssor for the modern day Champions League. They included qualification through domestic finish, knock-out home and away ties, with the stipulation that only professional teams could enter. Later that year, Meisl had a helping hand in the creation of the Central Europe International Cup, known in the modern day as the European Championships.
The creation of the tournaments saw Austrian success follow, as Meisl's players rose to the challenge of the competitive, well-balanced competitions. They were elevated to stardom by the early 1930s, with Meisl's
Their key player was centre forward Matthias Sindelar. Nicknamed 'The Mozart of Football', he is
Matthias Sindelar. The first false-9 in football history. An integral part of the Austrian Wunderteam of the 30s. pic.twitter.com/bolNF7AOJH— - (@omairraslam) June 6, 2016
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Yet the flamboyant midfielder was cast adrift by staunch disciplinarian Meisl for many years, with the diminutive talent hung out to dry in the international wilderness after a rumoured dispute. Campaigning for his return among commentators and observers led to Sindelar's eventual return to the international fold, four years after his exile.
His return was symbolic, with Sindelar's craft and style complimenting the
“We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in letters”.
History beckoned as Austria entered the 1934 World Cup, staged this time in Italy. Their were many high-profile absentees from the competition's entrants, with reigning champions Uruguay and England among the nations to abstain from participation.
Victory set up a clash with hosts Italy in the ultimate clash of styles - Meisl's side full of grace and elegance, with Vittorio Pozzo's Italian side renowned as a fierce, combative and athletic outfit. Eventually, brawn won out over style, as the Italians won 1-0. Sindelar's threat was nullified by the iconic Luis Monti, as Enrique Guaita prodded home the only goal of a scrappy affair.
The Austrian dream of winning the World Cup was extinguished, with failure to beat Germany in the third placed playoff seeing their campaign end in abject disappointment, Meisl was perhaps left to wonder what might have been for his prodigal side, who in