The first phase of the 1958 tournament pitted the defending champions against a mix of established and unknown opposition: the stylish Argentinians, the strong and tactically astute Czechs and World Cup debutants Northern Ireland.

The Argentinians were massive favourites for the opening game, and things appeared to go to form – and follow the form of the previous four years – when the Albiceleste went ahead with less than three minutes on the clock. But that is as good as it got for the Argentines, as Herberger’s side somehow turned the game on its head with a three-goal reply, two of them scored by 1954 hero Helmut Rahn.

Since that famous day in Berne, Rahn had – for want of a better term – gone off the rails; an alcohol habit coupled with an uncanny ability to end up in trouble had pushed him to the very fringes of the team. He had played only eight of Germany’s twenty-six matches between the 1954 and 1958 tournaments, but was called up to the World Cup squad by the man who could always get the best out of him – Sepp Herberger. The miner’s son from Essen was to repay his coach’s faith in him by playing all six of Germany’s matches in Sweden, scoring six goals.

Germany fell behind in both of their other two group games against Czechoslovakia and surprise package Northern Ireland, but always managed to up their game when it mattered to secure a pair of 2-2 draws and secure qualification for the quarter-finals. In what added up to what was probably the most surprising set of first phase results, the Northern Irish accounted for Czechoslovakia in a play-off after the two teams had tied for second place.

Another Rahn goal accounted for a workmanlike Yugoslav side in the quarter-final, securing yet another appearance in the last four and setting up what was to be a bruising and controversial encounter with hosts Sweden. Having taken the lead through Hans Schäfer, things then turned against Herberger’s side through a combination of bad luck and some inexplicable decisions from the officials. While every foul on a German player was seemingly ignored by Hungarian referee István Zsolt – whose nationality was not lost on the many German observers – the Swedes seemed to be getting away with murder.

With the score at 1-1 when Germany should really have been two or three to the good, fullback Erich Juskowiak was dismissed for retaliating to a foul by Swedish winger Kurt Hamrin with just under an hour gone. That proved to be the turning point, as the Swedes made full use of their two-man numerical advantage to score two further goals in the last ten minutes to seal victory.

To truly cap things off the third goal was scored by Hamrin, who on another day and with another referee might have been sitting in the dressing room bath instead of poor Juskowiak, whose ill-fated decision to swing a right-hook at his Swedish aggressor made him the second German player to be sent off in a World Cup match.

Germany’s tournament concluded with the third-place playoff against France, which saw the coach tinker with the line-up for a game that turned into something of a goal-fest. Both the creator and executor of the 1954 winning goal – Hans Schäfer and Helmut Rahn – got on the scoresheet as a dynamic French side ran out winners by six goals to three, with the record-breaking Just Fontaine scoring four of his side’s goals to take his individual tournament tally to what is a still unsurpassed thirteen.

First Phase Group 1 v Argentina, Malmö Stadion, Malmö, 08.06.1958
Argentina

3-1 (2-1)
Rahn 32, 79., Seeler 42. / Corbatta 3.

Germany FR: Herkenrath – Stollenwerk, Juskowiak – Eckel, Erhardt, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, F. Walter, Seeler, A. Schmidt, Ha. Schäfer (c)

Argentina: Carizzo – Dellacha, Vairo – Lombardo, Rossi, Varacka – Corbatta, Prado, Menendez, Rojas, Cruz

Referee: Reginald Leafe (England)
Assistants: Leo Helge (Denmark), Sten Ahlner (Sweden)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 31,156

First Phase Group 1 v Czechoslovakia, Olympiastadion, Helsingborg, 11.06.1958
Czechoslovakia

2-2 (0-2)
Schäfer 60., Rahn 71. / Dvořák pen 24., Zikán 42.

Germany FR: Herkenrath – Stollenwerk, Juskowiak – Schnellinger, Erhardt, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, F. Walter, Seeler, Ha. Schäfer (c), B. Klodt

Czechoslovakia: Dolejší – Mraz, Novák – Pluskal, Popluhár, Masopust – Hovorka, Dvořák, Molnár, Feureisl, Zikán

Referee: Arthur Ellis (England)
Assistants: Reginald Leafe (England), Friedrich Seipelt (Austria)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 25,000

First Phase Group 1 v Northern Ireland, Malmö Stadion, Malmö, 15.06.1958
Northern Ireland

2-2 (1-1)
Rahn 20., Seeler 78. / McParland 18., 60.

Germany FR: Herkenrath – Stollenwerk, Juskowiak – Eckel, Erhardt, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, F. Walter, Seeler, Ha. Schäfer (c), B. Klodt

Northern Ireland: Gregg – Keith, McMichael – B. Blanchflower, Cunningham, Peacock – Bingham, Cush, Casey, McIlroy, McParland

Referee: Joaquim Fernandes Campos (Portugal)
Assistants: Sten Ahlner (Sweden), Leo Helge (Denmark)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 25,000

TeamPWDLFAGA*Pts
GermanyGermany FR (Q)3120751.404
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland (Q)**3111450.803
CzechoslovakiaCzechoslovakia3111842.003
ArgentinaArgentina31025100.502

Other results: Northern Ireland 1-0 Czechoslovakia; Argentina 3-1 Northern Ireland; Czechoslovakia 6-1 Argentina.

* GA = Goal Average. Unlike in 1954, teams played all three of their group opponents. For the first time, Goal Average (GA) was calculated to be used as a tie-breaker. If the top two teams in the qualifying positions were equal on points, the GA would be used to calculate which team would be placed first and which would be placed second; however, if the teams in second and third place were on equal points, a play-off match would be played to determine which team qualified for the next phase. If the play-off was drawn after extra time, the GA would then be calculated to determine the qualifying team; if after all this the GA between the two teams was the same, lots would be drawn.

* Northern Ireland qualified for the quarter-finals after beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in a play-off after the two teams ended up equal on points. Had this match been drawn, the Czechs would have qualified for the quarter-finals on Goal Average.

Quarter-Final v Yugoslavia, Malmö Stadion, Malmö, 19.06.1958
Yugoslavia

1-0 (1-0)
Rahn 12. / –

Germany FR: Herkenrath – Stollenwerk, Juskowiak – Eckel, Erhardt, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, F. Walter, Seeler, A. Schmidt, Ha. Schäfer (c)

Yugoslavia: Krivokuća – Šijaković, Crnkovic – Boškov, Zebec, Krstić – Petaković, Veselinović, Milutinović, Ognjenović, Rajkov

Referee: Raymon Wyssling (Switzerland)
Assistants: Joaquim Fernandes Campos (Portugal), Leo Helge (Denmark)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 20,055

Semi-Final v Sweden, Ullevi, Göteborg, 24.06.1958
Sweden

1-3 (1-1)
Schäfer 24. / Skoglund 32., Gren 81., Hamrin 88.

Germany FR: Herkenrath – Stollenwerk, Juskowiak – Eckel, Erhardt, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, F. Walter, Seeler, Ha. Schäfer (c), Cieslarczyk

Sweden: Svensson – Bergmark, Axbom – Börjesson, Gustavsson, Parling – Hamrin, Gren, Simonsson, Liedholm, Skoglund

Referee: István Zsolt (Hungary)
Assistants: Friedrich Seipelt (Austria), Arthur Ellis (England)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 49,471

3rd Place Playoff v France, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 28.06.1958
France

3-6 (1-3)
Cieslarczyk 18., Rahn 52., Schäfer 84. / Fontaine 16., 36., 78., 89., Kopa pen 27., Douis 50.

Germany FR: Kwiatkowski – Stollenwerk, Erhardt – Schnellinger, Wewers, Szymaniak – H. Rahn, H. Sturm, Kelbassa, Ha. Schäfer (c), Cieslarczyk

France: Abbes – Kaelbel, Lerond – Penverne, Lafont, Marcel – Wisnieski, Douis, Kopa, Fontaine, Vincent

Referee: Juan Brozzi (Argentina)
Assistants: Arthur Ellis (England), Bengt Lundell (Sweden)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 32,483

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