The Austrian national football squad of the 1930s was known as the Wunderteam. Between April 1931 and December 1932, the club went 14 games without losing, led by manager Hugo Meisl. Austria became a well-known squad in Europe in the early 1930s. They thrashed many of their opponents before the 1934 World Cup, including 5-0 and 6-0 victories over Germany, a 6-0 triumph over Switzerland, and an 8-2 victory over Hungary. In 1932, they won the Central European International Cup, which was the precursor to the European Championship, by defeating Italy 4-2. Wunderteam's only championship victory came in this cup. They also placed second in the 1936 Summer Olympics.
Coach: Hugo Meisl
Trophies: Central European International Cup (1932)
Star Players: Matthias Sindelar, Josef Bican, Schall Smistik, Anton Schall and Walter Nausch
One of the finest pre-war international teams was Austria's Wunderteam of the 1930s. Austria had created the "Danubian Whirl," a ground-breaking strategy including the interchanging of the five forward players and a quick-passing style inspired by the Scottish teams that toured Vienna in the early twentieth century, under the guidance of pioneering coach Hugo Meisl. Austria had achieved international notoriety thanks to this style, which peaked in the early 1930s, sadly just ahead of the 1934 World Cup. They were nonetheless strong contenders, if not quite at their best, and only narrowly lost in a disputed semi-final to eventual victors Italy.
Austria was one of the favourites heading into the 1934 World Cup. They eliminated Hungary in the quarter-finals, which had finished second in the 1938 tournament. Despite playing great football, Austria, like Hungary's Golden Team 20 years later, failed to win the World Cup. In the semi-final, they were ousted by eventual champion Italy due to unfavourable weather conditions that restricted their ball movement. When the Austrian goalkeeper was shoved over the line, a single goal was scored. Ivan Eklind, the referee, was chastised for being biased towards the host nation, especially since he also officiated the final, which Italy also won. After losing 2-3 to Germany in the third-place match, Austria finished fourth.
Hugo Meisl's death in 1937 signalled the beginning of the end. Austria qualified for the 1938 World Cup finals but withdrew following Nazi Germany's Anschluss in March 1938.
Much of the squad was still intact by 1938, and although being past their prime, they were still a force to be reckoned with. As a result, going into the 1938 World Cup, Austria was once again one of the main contenders for Italy's title. All of that changed on March 12, 1938, when the German Reich began annexing Austria. German officials insisted that players from "Hitler's home state" participate for the German national team for political reasons, forcing coach Herberger to make a last-minute roster adjustment. Several Austrians were named to the combined team, which fell short of expectations and was ousted in the first round.
Matthias Sindelar, a non-German player, was discovered dead at his home in 1939, under circumstances that have sparked dispute ever since. With Austria's independence gone, the national football team was also gone. A few weeks later, the Austrian Football Association was disbanded as a separate entity and resurrected as part of the German football authorities. Viennese football was quickly cleansed and reorganised, with a major Jewish influence in several clubs. It was a terrible conclusion to what had been a brilliant era in Austrian football, with the Wunderteam's dramatic and sorry demise occurring alongside the nation they so ably represented.