Walter was a paratrooper for his country and a midfield general for the national side. Allsport/Hulton/Archive
Walter started as a forward but found his elegant skills and perceptive reading of the game were wasted so far up the pitch, and reinvented himself as a midfield general.
World War II, which Walter spent as a paratrooper, delayed his international career, and he was 33 by the time West Germany returned to the World Cup stage in 1954. Nonetheless, coach Sepp Herberger made him captain.
West Germany beat Turkey 4-1 but Herberger opted to rest some of his players for the clash with Hungary, and the tournament favorite ran riot against weakened opposition, winning 8-3.
But the West Germans picked themselves up to advance to a semifinal against Austria. Walter scored two penalties in a 6-1 win, setting up a rematch with Hungary.
The West Germans were now at full strength, whereas their opponents had endured a tough semifinal with Uruguay and an even-tougher quarterfinal against Brazil that had ended with both teams brawling in the dressing room. Doubts also surrounded the fitness of Ferenc Puskas, despite his insistence on playing.
Hungary raced into a two-goal lead, but Walter rallied his team to grab two quick equalizers. The Hungarians kept attacking, but West Germany held firm and by the late stages its opponent was flagging. Walter ordered his team forward and from his half-cleared cross Helmut Rahn scored the winner. It was Hungary’s first defeat in four years.
Walter retired from international soccer afterwards, but Herberger persuaded him to return for the 1958 finals in Sweden. West Germany reached the last four but lost to the hosts, and an injury suffered against the Swedes ended Walter’s West German career.