It is said, that the first ever football team to practice total football was the Austrian national squad from the ’30. Not Ajax from the ’70, Milan from the ’90 or Barcelona from current days! No, Austria was it. All football lovers know that side as ‘The Wunderteam’, but even though it was the most powerful team of its era, Austria didn’t win what so ever any major trophy. All of these mostly because a long row of bad lucks, maybe even curses! All started in 1934, at the World Cup in Italy. Austria qualified to the semifinal against the host nation and the lads from central Europe were by then considered major favorites for raising the trophy above their heads. The reality on the pitch was totally different. Still, the bad weather forbid Austria to play its style and the harsh marking of Luis Monti, to Matthais Sindelar, the captain and most important player of the Austrians weren’t enough! So, the legend say that the referee from the match officiated unevenly so the only goal of the encounter, from the 19th minute, came after the Wunderteams’ goalkeeper was pushed over the goal line.
Austria lost after also the third place match, but the boys started to prepare the next major competition: 1938 World Cup. All things should have been promising, but the death in 1937 of Hugo Meisl, the coach and architect of the Wunderteam, because of a heart-attack at only 55 years of age, generated a quick decline. Even though Austria did qualify for the tournament, they couldn’t play, because Nazi Germany annexed the country in March 1938 and Hitler ordered that all players appear for one team, obviously, Germany. A black end for a beautiful team, but no one could figure that this chain of curses will end here.
In early 1939, after a strange episode, Matthias Sindelar, the key player of that squad and stthe greatest footballer of all time from the history of Austria were found dead, alongside his girlfriend in his house from Wien. Clear was only that the death was caused by a carbon monoxide poisoning. The official statement reveled that it was an accident, but the myth say that Sindelar committed suicide because of the German Anschluss of Austria only a couple of years before, and because in this case he couldn’t have beneficiate of a grave of honor, all changed into an accident. Sindelar, which is still known as “The Mozart of football” or the “Paper man”, because of his fragile physical constitution played in eleven years for his country (1926 – 1937) 43 matches and scored 37 goals. From these, a couple such are: 7-1 and 8-1 against Switzerland, 6-0 and 8-2 in front of Hungary, 5-0 and 6-0 with Germany and 5-0 against Scotland, will forever remain in the history, even though all were friendly encounters.