When Hungary stunned Wembley – and the world… Calendar
1 Sep 2021
As England prepare to face Hungary in World Cup qualifiers, Tilly Johnson looks at a classic encounter between the two countries from 68 years ago.
It was dubbed “the match of the century” – a result that sent shockwaves across the globe and prompted the English national side to go back to the drawing board.
Stars Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright and Stanley Matthews could never have predicted they’d be so comprehensively defeated as they walked onto the Wembley pitch that Wednesday afternoon in November 1953.
Perhaps there was a clue in their nickname of the visitors from central Europe. Hungary were known as ‘The Golden Team’ and ‘The Mighty Magyars’.
Between 1950 and 1956, they recorded 42 victories, seven draws and just one defeat – the 1954 World Cup final against West Germany
More than 105000 fans crammed into Wembley for the visit of the Hungarians in 1953. The crowd stunned when the away team took the lead in the very first minute through Nándor Hidegkuti.
This set the scene for the rest of the game which would turn into a humbling thrashing.
England’s rigid formation simply could not keep up with Hungary’s fluid and skilful tactics.
English defenders would usually know who to mark by the numbers on opposition shirts, yet the Hungarian team swapped around the position of the players which left England confused.
This left space open for the Hungarian strikers to swoop in on England defence players static in their positions without anyone to mark.
The visitors ran rings around England. The team in red were 4-2 up at half-time and would go on to win 6-3.
To put the result in context, prior to this match the English national team had suffered just one defeat on home soil against foreign opposition, which had been in 1949 against the Republic of Ireland.
A core group of players were a solid formation for Hungary’s success.
The team featured Puskás – one of the greatest strikers in the history of football and an early global superstar.
Puskás was captain of his country. He was player of the tournament at the 1954 World Cup. At the age of 31 he joined Real Madrid becoming Spanish champion five times, winning three European Cups and the first Intercontinental Cup.
Alongside Puskás, the Hungarians featured goalkeeper Gyula Grosics who was known as the ‘Black Panther’ as he donned an all-black kit.
Grosics was also one of the first shot-stoppers in the history of the game to play as a ‘sweeper-keeper’.
Other stars included winger Zoltán Czibor, central midfielder József Bozsik and strikers Sándor Kocsis and Hidegkuti.
The Hungarians were credited for being one of the first sides to implement a totally new method of tactics called total football and scientific, coaching and tactical innovations subsequently adopted across the wider game.
Less than a year later the two nations met again.
On 23 May 1954, England visited Budapest in the hope of avenging the 6–3 defeat. Instead, they suffered an even heavier loss.
Hungary beat England 7–1. It still ranks as England’s heaviest footballing defeat. The National Football Museum has the match ball from this game and it is on display.
As the two nations gear up to meet each other again on 2 September and 12 October 2021 in World Cup qualifiers, will the matches see as many goals as those classic clashes of yesteryear?
Góbéfest comes to Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens – Friday 3 September 2021
A free festival which celebrates the traditions of ethnic Hungarians comes to Manchester this weekend (3-5 September 2021).
Góbéfest takes place in Cathedral Gardens – just outside the National Football Museum.
It is one of the largest celebrations of arts and culture from the Carpathian Basin in the UK.
During the festival visitors can try to Teqball.
A cross between football and table tennis, Teqball is loved by players including Ronaldinho.
Played using a standard football on a special kind of curved ping pong table, Teqball began in Hungary in 2012, and is one of the fastest recognised new sports in the world.
Two Teqball tables are on special delivery to the city, courtesy of Teqball and Consulate General of Hungary in Manchester, along with a team of experts who will demonstrate how to play like a pro.
One of the tables will be centre stage at Góbéfest, with festival goers invited up to test out their skills.
Teqball is at Góbéfest on Friday 3 September 2021 from 2pm.
Góbéfest continues until 11pm on Sunday 5 September.