CLASSIC TITLE MATCH:
Switzerland 2-1 Germany
20 April 1941
Friendly, Stade de Swiss, Berne
Scorers: Monnard, Amadò (Switzerland); Hahnemann (Germany)
During the Second World War, the German side played scores of international matches against occupied and neutral countries. For Nazi Germany, football was an important propaganda tool, used to demonstrate Nazi superiority and boost citizens’ morale.
Led by coach Sepp Herberger – a fully paid-up member of the Nazi Party – the side appeared in the 1941 propaganda film Das Grosse Spiel, or The Great Game. Not featured in the film was former international goalscoring hero Julius Hirsch, a German Jew who was axed from the Nazi team and subsequently died in Auschwitz.
In April 1941 Germany thrashed Hungary 7-0 in Cologne to take the UFWC title. But two weeks later, on Hitler’s birthday, Germany lost 2-1 to Switzerland in Berne. Numa Monnard and Lauro Amadò scored for the Swiss.
The Nazi regime was furious, with Goebbels himself declaring that there would be in the future ‘definitely no sporting exchanges when the result is the least bit unpredictable’. Herberger was ordered to have the side train heavily for three full weeks before every subsequent international.
And the German players had an added incentive to win – if they played badly they would be dropped from the squad and sent to the Eastern Front, where they would face almost certain death.
With considerable incentive to succeed, the German side (including players from the annexed Austria) recaptured the UFWC title in May 1942, beating Hungary 5-3, before comfortably seeing off Bulgaria (3-0) and Romania (7-0).
They were fully expected to brush Sweden aside in a similarly emphatic manner at the Olympiastadion in Berlin in September 1942. But the Swedes, with the great Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordahl in their ranks, won 3-2.
The defeat marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi Germany team. The final straw for the Nazi regime was a non-UFWC defeat to Slovakia in November 1942. The national team was dissolved, and its players were sent to the front line, where most of them perished.