Monday, February 17, 2014

17 February 1937 - The Passing Of Hugo Meisl

On 17 February 1937, Hugo Meisl, who built Austria into one of the dominant sides of the 1930s, died of a heart attack. He was 55.

The son of a successful banker, Meisl was training to follow in his father's footsteps when he opted instead to pursue a career in football, working as a referee and taking a position with the Austrian Football Association. In 1912, at the age of 31, he became the manager of the national team, starting his tenure with a 1-3 victory over Italy that December. 

Apart from a break for service during World War I, he remained in charge of Austria for the next twenty-five years. Their greatest period came during the early 1930s, when they enjoyed a 14-match unbeaten run. Christened the "Wunderteam," that Austrian side dominated European competition, led by their talismanic center forward Matthias Sindelar. They entered the 1934 World Cup as favorites, but lost to eventual winners Italy in the semifinals, 1-0. They also lost to Italy in the gold-medal match of the 1936 Olympics, denying Meisl the silverware to match his team's potential. 

His last game in charge was a 2-1 win over France in January 1937. Just over three weeks later, while preparing to face Italy in the Central European International Cup, he suffered a heart attack and died. During his time in charge of Austria, the team compiled a record of 71 wins, 30 draws, and 32 losses.

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