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When the Magical Magyars illuminated Wembley

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Jonathan Stevenson | 08:39 UK time, Monday, 9 August 2010

The headline in The Times said it all: 'A new conception of football'. England, the inventors of the game, had never seen anything like it.

Hungary's 6-3 destruction of Walter Winterbottom's shell-shocked team at Wembley Stadium on 25 November 1953 was not only a defining moment in English football history but arguably the moment the baton passed from one sporting age to another.

As Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti and Sandor Kocsis passed devastating patterns around a dumbstruck England side, they did so with a style of play never seen before on these shores, dragging their opponents kicking and screaming into a new era.

Nowadays, when barely two years go by without the England national team suffering some kind of catastrophic defeat, it is hard to imagine a time when the country that gave the world the game still considered itself football's best practitioners.

Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863, England went into the friendly with Hungary 57 years ago expected to win handsomely despite the absence of the brilliant forward Tom Finney.

eng_hung595.jpgEngland captain Billy Wright exchanges pennants prior to kick-off with Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Puskas

Jackie Sewell, who was the most expensive signing in British football when he joined Sheffield Wednesday from Notts County for £34,500 in March 1951, remembers the game like it was yesterday. "Of course people thought we'd win but we got taught a proper lesson that day," Sewell, one of the England team's two remaining survivors, told me. "I don't think we were that bad but they were marvellous, easily the best team I ever saw play football.

"Their movement was incredible. They just passed around us all day long. They played the little triangles, the give-and-go ones you see everyone trying to do now. But no-one did it back then, no-one I'd seen anyway."

For England, who had for years played in the WM formation - since referred to as 3-2-5 or 3-4-3 - even the way the Hungarians lined up was unfamiliar, manager Gusztav Sebes sending his team out in a 3-5-2 with the brilliant Hidegkuti as a revolutionary deep-lying striker behind Puskas and Kocsis.

Even in the days before football on television, Hungary should not have been an unknown quantity. Ranked by Fifa as the number one team in the world, they were unbeaten for nearly four years and had won Olympic gold in Helsinki in 1952.

Adapting and improving on the style of play of the great Austrian team of the 1930s, Hungary were playing a brand of Total Football made famous by Johan Cruyff and the Dutch at the 1974 World Cup before anyone had ever even heard of the phrase.

The great Sir Stanley Matthews, in the autobiography that was published just before his death in 2000, admitted England were "outpaced and outmanoeuvred" as Wembley witnessed "football history being made".

Matthews added: "Hungary were combining two styles - the British all-running cut and thrust and the short passing game of probing infiltration much favoured at the time by the South Americans.

"It was an imaginative combination of exacting ball control, speed of movements and esoteric vision that knitted together to formulate a style of football that was as innovative as it was productive. Long before the final whistle, the glory of our footballing past had been laid to rest."

The way the final curtain was brought down on England's proud home record by a country from behind the Iron Curtain was as ruthless as it was sublime. Barely a minute had passed before Hidegkuti smashed past Gil Merrick in the England goal, though Sewell did manage to slot home a leveller 15 minutes later.

"That was the only time I enjoyed any of it," said Sewell, slightly tongue in cheek. "I nipped in between two defenders to equalise but they weren't bothered, they just carried on as they were taking us apart and 13 minutes later we were 4-1 down."

Hungary were not only clinical, they were artful with it. Their third was a goal of rare beauty and mesmerising skill, the 'Galloping Major' Puskas expertly dragging the ball away from Billy Wright "with the art of a bullfighter", according to Sewell, before crashing a shot high into the roof of the net. "Wright rushed into that tackle like a man racing to the wrong fire," surmised Geoffrey Green in the Times the next day.

Puskas, who Sewell describes as "a one-legged player who could do just about anything with that left leg" and who went on to score 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary, would later star in the great Real Madrid team of the late 1950s and early 1960s, securing his place in football's hall of fame. "He was the greatest player I ever saw," added Sewell, whose admiration has not dulled over the ensuing years.

Braces for Hidegkuti and the portly Puskas stunned a packed Wembley. Stan Mortensen pulled one back before the break but England were run ragged. "We didn't say anything at half-time, we were just knackered," said Sewell. "Walter was talking tactics but I'd spent 45 minutes running after the ball and not getting it. They made us look silly."

Hidekguti completed his hat-trick after half-time and Jozsef Bozsik made it 6-2 before Alf Ramsey's penalty produced another consolation for England. When the final whistle went, Hungary had takens 35 shots compared to England's five. "Here, indeed, did we attend, all 100,000 of us, the twilight of the gods," wrote Green.

hungary595.jpgWere the Hungarians of the 1950s the best football team of all time?

The impact of the defeat reached far and wide. Ramsey, England's ageing right-back that day, was opened up to a whole new world of possibilities - it was his decision to play without wingers that helped England's 'Wingless Wonders' win the World Cup on home soil in 1966. Two more future England managers were watching on from the stands - Ron Greenwood and 20-year-old Fulham forward Bobby Robson.

"We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before," said Robson years later. "All these fantastic players, they were men from Mars as far as we were concerned. The way they played, their technical brilliance and expertise - our WM formation was kyboshed in 90 minutes of football.

"The game had a profound effect, not just on myself but on all of us. That one game alone changed our thinking. We thought we would demolish this team - England at Wembley, we are the masters, they are the pupils. It was absolutely the other way."

As if to prove their point, the rampant Hungarians demolished England 7-1 in a friendly in Budapest six months later. The old way of playing was over but a bond between the teams that would last several decades had begun.

In November 1993, the remaining survivors were invited to Budapest for a grand dinner to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hungary's famous win. "I've never experienced the sort of camaraderie with anyone else that we had with that team," Sewell told me. "There was a terrific bond between the players and it never went away.

"We were shown around Budapest, taken to some vineyards and then plonked on a big stage with TV cameras around where they presented us with these gold cups. It was marvellous, they really looked after us - but that's the sort of people they were."

Sadly for that magical Hungarian side, they did not quite fulfil their extraordinary potential. Having obliterated the opposition by scoring 25 goals in four games to reach the 1954 World Cup final, they lost a controversial final 3-2 to West Germany despite going 2-0 ahead after eight minutes, a game the Germans still call the Miracle of Berne.

The statistics show that this was a Hungary side incomparable not only in its era but in any. In a six-year, 50-game period, the World Cup final was their only defeat as Puskas et al won 42 games and drew seven, scoring a breathtaking 215 goals along their way.

Indeed, using the World Football Elo Ratings system, the Hungarians of the mid-1950s are the highest ranked team of all time. "Imagine the best team you've ever seen - that Hungarian side is easily as good, if not better," said Sewell. "It wasn't just us who were baffled by them. Everyone was."

Truly, the Magical Magyars are a team that should never be forgotten.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    What a player Ferenc Puskas was. An integral part of two of the greatest teams the World has seen. Interesting also to see that since those 6-3 and 7-1 thrashings, English football has still not moved on! People talk about Brazil in 82, but the magical Magyars were surely the greatest team not to win a World Cup.

  • Comment number 2.

    class article... Hungarians forever world beaters

  • Comment number 3.

    Nowadays, when barely two years go by without the England national team suffering some kind of catastrophic defeat, it is hard to imagine a time when the country that gave the world the game still considered itself football's best practitioners.

    -----------------

    Weird. England went into the 1953 match on the back of a World Cup elimination at the group stage and a defeat by America. Why on earth did they imagine they were so good? On what evidence?

    In reality, England went into that match (and the 1950 World Cup) with their deluded players and press thinking they were a hundred times better than they really were. And they got the humiliation they deserved.

    For the England national football team, nothing changes. Ever. NOTHING EVER CHANGES. A week may be a long time in politics, but for the English national team 60 years is like the blink of an eye.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Their movement was incredible. They just passed around us all day long. They played the little triangles, the give-and-go ones you see everyone trying to do now. But no-one did it back then, no-one I'd seen anyway."
    ...................................
    over 50 years later, not much has changed then !
    British footballers still play archaic "straight-line" football !
    England still get passed off the park when they play a top international team !

  • Comment number 5.

    And what has happened to Hungary since then. And this is the perfect build up as I look forward to seeing what will happen on Wednesday.

  • Comment number 6.

    I read or heard somewhere that the Hungarians wore more modern type of football boot than England. Can anyone verify this?

  • Comment number 7.

    Best team ever?

    Beware the urge to big up those who destroy you. As with the mistaken English belief that Maradona's 2nd goal in 1986 was the "greatest ever", it's actually a displaced form of egomania. We're so brilliant only the most fantastic of all time can beat us!!!!

    Egomania being the perennial sickness of the England national team, of course.

  • Comment number 8.

    You can almost see the difference between us and them in the picture of Billy Wright embarassed, about to exchange a 'pair of bloomers' for the suave cut of the pants which Ferenc Puskas is holding.

  • Comment number 9.

    lorus59 - yep, true. Also their shirts were a lot lighter than the England ones. They were ahead of their time in many ways.

    When the players were walking out, Jackie Sewell tapped Stanley Matthews on the arm and said: "Stan, Stan, look at them - they haven't even got proper kit. We're gonna have a field day today!"

  • Comment number 10.

    Good stuff. Always good to asee anything about teh Hungarian teams of the mid 50's.

    A quick nerd point: According to Charlie Buchan's "A Lifetime in Football" The Austrian Sindelar side nearly beat England using similar manner in the mid 30's with Jimmy Hampson saving England that time around late in the game.

    Need to get out more.

    To be fair England had some truly great players in the late 40's early 50's; with the likes of Finney, Mannion Carter et al. Just shows, you need brains on and off the pitch, eh?

  • Comment number 11.

    In 1954 Puskas was crocked by the Germans. Almost all the germans players were in hospital for doping after the match.(Hungary beat Brasil and Champions Uruguay int the semis.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fantastic team. They were a side that it would have been a pleasure to see in their prime

  • Comment number 13.

    Has anyone seen the video of the 1954 final? You can watch it on YouTube. Honestly Hungary should've won by 3 or 4 goals, it truly was a miracle. They hit the woodwork on a number of occassions and were victims of some very dubious refereeing.

  • Comment number 14.

    I was there as a youngster, and some old wag said, (watching the oppostion warm up doing juggling tricks with the ball) 'They wont be able to do that when we start playing'....how wrong could one be and how it influenced my ideas of how football should be played...

  • Comment number 15.

    The story didn't end with Englands defeat, many of the 'Magical Magyars' were in the Honved team that played Wolverhapton Wanderers in 1954. Wolves won 3-2, after being 2 - nil down at half time. The English press hailed Wolves to be "Champions of the World", this was picked up by the French press and ultimately led to the creation of the European Cup.

  • Comment number 16.

    I had the pleasure of attending the Ferenc Puskas memorial dinner at Man City a few years back and met the legendary Sir Tom Finney (incidentally one of the only non-Hungarian players invited to Puskas' funeral, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet) and he said during a very interesting chat that Puskas was the greatest player he had ever seen. I asked "what even better than Garrincha who in Brazil is considered their greatest ever player?” Sir Tom replied emphatically "that Garrincha was not even in the same league."
    The footage I saw that day of the Hungarian team and Puskas himself was awe inspiring the famous Oranje side of Cruyff et al were playing the same football 30 years later and making it look revolutionary which shows just how great they were.
    If time travel were possible they would still probably rip the current England team apart.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863"


    Might as well stretch that record back to the Stone Age if you're going to (semi)randomly pick a year well before Wembley was opened in the first place ;-)

  • Comment number 18.

    As a 20 year old english semi-pro at that time. I was totally awed by the unselfishness of their players, They were a true team, all for one,one for all. Imagine Todays Barcelona, playing at twice their normal speed and you might be close. England's long dominance was truly over and I don't think the people at the F.A. nor the English press have ever really got that message. You might also have reminded everyone that since they lived in a communist country, they were members of the army
    team and as such eligible for amateur play. Puskas and others were promoted after that match as a reward.

  • Comment number 19.

    I once had the pleasure to meet George Best and he was able to name every member of that Hungarian team. To me, Best was the best player of his generation, but he was still in awe of Puskas and co.

  • Comment number 20.

    It is always talked that Holland during the 70s were the greatest team that never won the World Cup without a thought about the Hungarians. The style of football that the Hungarians played was intricate, precise, free-flowing and goals galore, "Total Football"?

    England was outplayed not just in 1953 but also in the following game in Budapest in 1954, where they were humiliated 7-1. Have England ever learnt?

    In the 1954 World Cup, Puskas made the mistake of playing in the Final against the Germans even though he was crocked. That was their downfall especially having spanked the German 8-3 in the group stages.

  • Comment number 21.

    Yes,what a team they were,I was at Wembley that day with my Dad,I have never been to a football match that was so quiet,one could have heard a pin drop.

  • Comment number 22.

    My Uncle George Robb played in the 6-3 game , in those days of course only 11 named and no squad or substitutes. It turned out to be his only International cap as he was a left winger and Tom Finney was the first choice, now days he'd have had loads .
    He was and still is a true gentleman and was one of the first to persue a career, as a Teacher, rather than turn Professional until persuaded to do so by Spurs. He will also be remembered for not 'diving' when brought down by Bert Trautman in Fa Cup semi for a definite penalty , umlike todays Prima-donas....... well done Uncle George

  • Comment number 23.

    Hungary were indeed true masters of the world game in the early 50's, potentially the second super team after the Brazilians in the late 30's. They were unlucky not to win the world cup a year later, but were beaten by West Germany, this is probably one of the greatest final shocks in history, Hungary after all put 8 past the Germans in the group phases.

    After they lost to Malta in 2006, there was a massive restructure of the team which would put even Muller, Ozil and co to shame. I think they got rid of the whole 23 after that game? Certainly only Dardai remained?

    Should England have done the same?

    England are facing a young, hungry (pun intended) team with nothing to lose, this is the type of game England should win but with a cloud over them with the crowd on their backs I think 'Team Ego' could struggle.

  • Comment number 24.

    What you didn't mention 'Stevo' was that after the initial Wembley defeat the FA almost *demanded* the re-match in Budapest. Deluded as ever they thought the humiliation was some sort of fluke and the second game was arranged to restore national pride. Oh dear!

  • Comment number 25.

    Yeah, footy used to be ace. It's still the best game there is but it's lost some of it's shine. The memorable moments from this WC were the unsporting behaviour of the Dutch and Suarez.

    Football in the age of 'you're only as good as your last result' has lost its soul.These komondors of football past have been replaced by the powder puff poodles that we have today

  • Comment number 26.

    Terrific piece Mr. Stevenson, thank you.

  • Comment number 27.

    Jimmy Dickinson was playing that day, at left-half earning one of his 48 caps to go with 764 League appearances for Pompey, 2nd most all-time for one club. Never booked, never sent off. Voted one of the 100 Legends of the Football League but unaccountably absent from the National Football Museum Hall Of Fame.

    Hopefully this will be the year he's belatedly honoured.

    PS: Agree with the comment #22 about George Robb.

  • Comment number 28.

    Mike,
    I was taught football by George Robb. He was a true gentleman and spoke with great admiration on the Hungarian team, not only the way they played, but as men also. I spent time doing his and Kate's garden as well!
    He was never bitter about getting just one cap, when in another era he may have received 50.
    What a shame that the present day footballers do not act with the same sense of decorum as George.

  • Comment number 29.

    7. At 10:56am on 09 Aug 2010, Johnnygray26 wrote: "Best team ever? Beware the urge to big up those who destroy you. As with the mistaken English belief that Maradona's 2nd goal in 1986 was the "greatest ever", it's actually a displaced form of egomania. We're so brilliant only the most fantastic of all time can beat us! Egomania being the perennial sickness of the England national team, of course"

    Watch the footage. They were the best. Some of us can see the "we're so brilliant only the most fantastic of all time can beat us" attitude for the nonsense it is. More to the point, some of us would rather praise the exceptional than pillory the average.

    If you want to slag off Team In-ger-lund [of this or any era], there are plenty of other posts to do that on.

  • Comment number 30.

    Fantastic article with some equally fine responses. It's always interesting to discover more behind about the stories behind the game. The introduction of lighter shirts and better boots coupled with the Hungarians' innovative formation were truely a master stroke on their part. It's very rare nowadays for anyone to come up with anything new we haven't already seen to such dramatic effect - apart from Rory Delap's long throw ;(

    Shame the Hungarians haven't built more on their fine 'forward thinking' traditions - rather stuck in the past like England; perhaps proving you really need decent players (like Puskas) to succeed rather more than a well drilled system?

  • Comment number 31.

    There are numerous similarities between then and now;
    Picking England teams by committee right upto the early '60s and the recent squads still seem to be picked the same way, though the 'modern' committee is the media.
    Believeing the hype when the facts prove otherwise.
    Having been shown up by new methods we still continue to go back to the old ways.

    As for the '54 final, it was as dodgy as others before and since, where the best team was beaten by 'dubious' means, if I say what I actully mean this post would undoubtedly get removed ;)

  • Comment number 32.

    Very interesting, i've noticed UEFA have an excellent interview on their website with the last two surviving Hungarians from that game. Well worth a watch http://en.uefa.com/trainingground/tactics/formations/video/videoid=1507211.html?autoplay=true

  • Comment number 33.

    An enjoyable read. I would love to have seen that team in action.

    Is the English national team in need of such a dramatic overhaul now?

    http://scottssportsandsocial.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 34.

    As a Wolves fan...our greatest achievement was beating Honved 3-2 in front of 60,000 at Molineux, under the newly invented floodlights.

    The game was seen as a revenge match since Wolves v Honved was largely the same team as England v Hungry. Wolves were then described as the Champions of the World.

  • Comment number 35.

    Great article. Work with a hungarian and he reminds me of this game and the great Magyars all the time. I wondered what happened against West Germany (a team that could never beat England for the longest time), how did they manage to beat these 'people from Mars'. Would love to see some old clips of this team. Why does Johnny Gray comment on England in his miserable manner. This article is just about wonderful Hungary

  • Comment number 36.

    'Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863'

    What a strange thing to say. The first international match between any country was in 1872 and Wembley opened in 1923.

  • Comment number 37.

    Due recognition Jonathan. Unfortunately, like some others here I suspect, before my time so can only go on hearsay, reports and old film footage. Certainly looks like the Magyars were giants of their era, ahead of their time, but I turn off when people, in some cases blindly, start comparing to different eras, often down to fragile egos.

    Having read your profile, growing up, like me, you might have constantly been reminded on Midlands TV by Billy Wright how great Hungary were. Like another poster on here it appears, I've grown weary of every time I join a blog, finding Johnny Gray (see a psychiatrist) again with nothing but negativity to say about England, even when the topic is a tin of beans, but I have to say I kind of agree with him about the tendency of people like Billy Wright to big up the opposition because of hurt pride. As also noted, our football greats of my father's era, that he used to forever remind me were infinitely better than any players of any subsequent era, had lost to a team of American amateurs in the 1950 World Cup. Up to 1966 our Finals record is nothing to write home about. And in a more competitive world, our subsequent record compares favourably. So were our post war legends as great as they've been portrayed? Your hero Brian Clough once said they wouldn't have lived in the fitter, more athletic football world. Let's just appreciate them for what they were in the time the played, and in the case of English players remember they didn't use to confront foreign players as often as the modern player does.

  • Comment number 38.

    The Hungarians showed us a new approach to playing football in 1953..."Its football... but not as we know it Walter"... unfortunately we got back on Star-Trek Voyager, turned on the warp engines and finished up back in SA in 2010! (inverted time-helix I believe!!!)

  • Comment number 39.

    We were lucky enough to have a TV at the time and, as a schoolboy, I managed to contract a mystery illness that afternoon. What I witnessed was amazing. Football like I had never seen before! Such fluidity it was out of this world. In my top six greatest football matches I have ever seen this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the one that impressed me most. It would probably leave today's kids wondering what all the fuss is about but at that time, just after the war, no one expected the spectacle they would see. The shorter than normal shorts, the cut down boots were all completely new to us in those days and left a lasting impression. No one wanted to be "Matthews" in the park games anymore but a whole new list of Hungarian names had suddenly sprung into schoolboys vocabularies.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is just shoddy. The article states, "Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863,"

    How on earth could this record stretch back to 1863 when Wembley wasn't even built until 1923?

  • Comment number 41.

    I find it disappointing that Jonathan Stevenson has failed to research this game sufficiently and so, neglected to acknowledge the immense impact of a Lancashireman of Irish origin upon this game. After the final whistle, the Hungary coach was asked where they learned to play such beautiful football... His response was to doff his cap to the true originator of total football - a man who has been completely forgotten by English football - Jimmy Hogan. His exact words..? "Everything we know about football, we learned from Jimmy Hogan." Stick that in yer pipe Johan Cruyf... Jimmy was way ahead of ye!

  • Comment number 42.

    #41, thanks for that Mr Gorey. Looks like we're still making the same mistakes more than half a century later?!

  • Comment number 43.

    What a wonderful piece about a great team. It may also be worth remembering that it took England only 13 years to reconstruct and win the World Cup. That time also included the loss of some core players in the Munich crash, the tragic death of Hall and career ending injuries to Meadows, McDonald and Phillips.

  • Comment number 44.

    Nae bother Drooper... It pains me to see how English football has foresaken the true artists like Jimmy Hogan and Brian Clough over the years. Either of these men could have taken the national team and its ethos light years ahead of where it is now. Spoilt brats like Rooney don't deserve to bow in their presence... I hope someday Mr Hogan is properly acknowledged for his legacy. Cruyff would do well to recognise the debt he owes to this man.

  • Comment number 45.

    The Geoffrey Green quote should read.
    "like a fire engine going to the wrong fire"

  • Comment number 46.

    That 1950's Hungary team was the best ever national team never to have won the world cup. Not even Cruyff's 1970's Dutch team can compare.

  • Comment number 47.

    What a fabulous article and what a fabulous football team the Hungarians were back then. The biggest compliment I could give them is that if i had to choice one team from history to watch, i'd pick this team. Forget the Matthias Sindelar inspired Austrian's of the early 1930's, the Italian's of 1938, the Brazil team from 1970, or even the Dutch team from 1974. This magnificent side were the first who rocked the footballing world to its core and I for one, wish i could have been there to see it.

  • Comment number 48.

    Pub Fight - Motherwell Rules wrote: " 'Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863' What a strange thing to say. The first international match between any country was in 1872 and Wembley opened in 1923."
    It should say '... a record stretching back to 1951'. That was when England first played at Wembley against a team from outside the British Isles. So it was two years, as opposed to 90. Pretty close, really.

  • Comment number 49.

    As a 12-year-old in Yorkshire, I read about the upcoming game a few days before and how it was going to be televised. What a chance. I woke up coughing, feeling woozy and told my mam that I was too sick for school. ‘Nice try,’ she said. ‘Get up.’ I was supposed to catch a train to the grammar school, dawdled and missed it. Knowing mam had left for her factory job I went home. She was due back at 12.30 to have her lunch, although I think we called it dinner. Before she got home, I climbed into the attic and sat there shivering until she left for the second half of her 10-hour day. As soon as I heard her close the door I got down and switched on the box, black and white, of course, and something like 14inches diagonally. There was no fire as the house was supposed to be empty and I wrapped myself in an eiderdown. Nothing bothered me because I was sure Billy Wright and his team would light up the dull November day. We’d make mugs of the Magyars. Ninety minutes later my football world had collapsed. Sometimes I still have a nightmare of my hero sliding over the byline on his backside as Puskas pulled the ball away from his charge and scored in what seemed like one movement. Tell me it didn’t happen. I went for a walk and arrived home from ‘school’ at the usual time, just after my mam got back from her shift. ‘England got beat,’ she said. ‘Oh no,’ I replied, and helped her make the fire.

  • Comment number 50.

    My pal John was at Wembley that day. He's now 87, living in Mississippi, and suffering from memory lapses. But he still vividly remembers that game, which he describes as the greatest soccer match he ever saw. I suppose if you have to retain one memory, that's not a bad one to have!

  • Comment number 51.

    "Pub Fight - Motherwell Rules wrote: " 'Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863' What a strange thing to say. The first international match between any country was in 1872 and Wembley opened in 1923."
    It should say '... a record stretching back to 1951'. That was when England first played at Wembley against a team from outside the British Isles. So it was two years, as opposed to 90. Pretty close, really."


    Actually, it should instead say 'Unbeaten at home against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1872' given that the only teams to have beaten England at home were countries from within Great Britain and Ireland.

  • Comment number 52.

    I still rate Puskas the best player I have ever seen as everybody new what he was going to do as he only used his left foot and could nothing to stop him doing it

  • Comment number 53.

    I saw most of the matches in the 66 World Cup on our wee black-and-white TV, and I thought Hungary were also the best team of that tournament, with Bene and Albert two fantastic forwards. Their victory over Brazil by 3-1 was sensational (some highlights are available on youtube - check Bene's opener and especially Albert's volley for the third, still one of the best goals I have ever seen. The ball shot past the goalie so hard and true that he barely moved. And Hungary didn't even top their group - Portugal did!

  • Comment number 54.

    Nice to see credit being given to Jimmy Hogan. An couple that drink in my local were friends of his and said he only went out to Hungary because the FA thought his ideas of keeping the ball down and short intricate passing etc were stupid. The FA... nothing ever changes.

    Hogan was also apparenty instrumental in getting Puskas out of Hungary. Can anyone verify this?

  • Comment number 55.

    At the World Cup finals of 1954, in the group stages, Hungary met West Germany and beat them 8-3, although West Germany fielded mostly second string players as they wanted to avoid Brazil in the quarter finals. Hungary actually scored 25 goals in the run up to the final. Puskas was less than fit in the final, but the Hungarians continued to play that match as if they were unbeatable. Even when West Germany levelled, they played as if the Cup was theirs and went on the attack for the whole of the second half. History tells us that it was a counter-attack that gave West Germany the winner and Puskas late equaliser was ruled offside. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 brought an end to the country's dominance as Puskas et al went their separate ways.

  • Comment number 56.

    Magyars !!!!!
    I do remember as if it was yesterday, the WC final between Germany and Hungary, the radio commentator yelling: Don't think I got crazy Germany is
    winning by 3 to 2. Hard to believe.
    At Portugal we had 3 coaches from that time, Bella Gutman, Janos Hrotko and Janos Zorgo. Bella Gutman coach Benfica taking them to 3 European Cup Finals, winning 2. Beat Barcelona 3 to 2 and Real Madrid 5 to 3.
    The other 0ne was lost at S. Ciro Italy with Inter by 0 to 1.
    I had the luck of having Janos Hrotko as a coach.
    We start seeing football with other eyes and we enjoyed every single moment at practices. He was very happy man overall when playing wit us passed the ball between our legs, he laughed, laughed and laughed.
    Sometimes we met him on the other side of the street, he smiles and with his arm pointed for middle of his legs and then laughed.
    Rain or shine we were there every 06:00AM.
    Teaching his abilities to us it was for him his life, and we respect
    that man as our fathers.
    That was the way I do think coaches have to be, the pleasure of teaching
    and correcting our coordination for a perfect kick, control of the ball and score.
    He used to tell us, you know engineers at beginning of football were not to smart, that is why the goal posts don't move right and left to be in the ball direction when you fail;
    When the ball went to high he used to comment, don't kill the birds it's
    not their fault.
    Every game I do watch his comments come to my mind, seeing super stars
    killing so many birds.


  • Comment number 57.

    Whilst reading this blog, I opened a new tab to view Hungary's 7-1 on YouTube (with a very excited Hungarian commentator). Great stuff. From the opening kick-off, England lose possession and Hungary scream upfield to almost score in the first minute. Goal four (or was it five?) is frighteningly reminiscent of Germany's third in the recent debacle in South Africa. But it should not have been 7-1! Puskas is denied a clear penalty towards the end, and then fluffs an easy one-on-one chance with the goalie. So he was fallible after all!
    As a Scot, I have talked to several people who attended the 1960 European Cup Final at Hampden, and consequently hold Puskas in total awe (although many say that Di Stefano was the star of that particular evening).

  • Comment number 58.

    "Wolves - Champions of the World!"

    One thing that is often overlooked with Hungary's dominance in the 50's is the match which occured at club level.

    Following these games faith in the English national team was at an all time low. Wolves faced a Honvéd team in a friendly that including many of the "Magical Magyars" team who had recently humbled England twice, and had been 1954 World Cup finalists.

    In front of the watching nation, Wolves came from two goals down at half time to beat the Hungarian side 3–2, which coupled with their previous European exploits, lead the national media to proclaim Wolves "Champions of the World"

    If only such a thing were true now....

  • Comment number 59.

    as a Hungarian I have to say many people including myself consider the '54 final the most disastrous moment of our history, at all, not only in football...but the Wembley game is something that makes us still feel proud.

  • Comment number 60.

    Thank you, Stevo.

  • Comment number 61.

    @col029: 'Hogan was also apparenty instrumental in getting Puskas out of Hungary. Can anyone verify this?'

    I don't think so. The Honved team was on tour abroad when the Hungarian Revolution broke out in '56, and he did not came back to Hungary after the Soviet troops defeated the Revolution.

    Actually, Puskás was banned by the FIFA from playing competitive football for 18 months, because he left Honvéd and his contract behind. So he was 31, overweighted and out of form when Real Madrid signed him eventually in '58 (and he went on to win 4 Pichicis, top goalscoring awards with them). He was rejected by some Italian giants and was considered by MU after the Munich disaster, but he ended up at Real.

    This is a very good documentary about Puskás: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0829269/

  • Comment number 62.

    Have to agree with seventeenth, also the loss of Duncan Edwards who at only 21 looked like he might be England's greatest player in history. What a stupid thing to try to take off in a blizzard after two previous attempts had failed.

    But really, the Hungary 1953-1954 was the best team of all time. Real Madrid won everything with Ferenc Puskas and Barcelona with Sandor Kocsis was an excellent team. What happened to Hideguti? I read he had been imprisoned by the Soviets after the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

  • Comment number 63.

    At 10:10pm on 09 Aug 2010, leconcasseur wrote: "I saw most of the matches in the 66 World Cup on our wee black-and-white TV, and I thought Hungary were also the best team of that tournament, with Bene and Albert two fantastic forwards. Their victory over Brazil by 3-1 was sensational (some highlights are available on youtube - check Bene's opener and especially Albert's volley for the third, still one of the best goals I have ever seen. The ball shot past the goalie so hard and true that he barely moved. And Hungary didn't even top their group - Portugal did!"

    Albert was a fine player, true, but the scorer of the memorable 3rd goal was Janos Farkas.

  • Comment number 64.

    "England, the inventors of the game, had never seen anything like it."

    Well actually they had - in 1928 to be precise when Scotland thrashed them 5-1 with a team that became known as the 'Wembley Wizards'.

    But lets sweep that one under the carpet eh... ;)

  • Comment number 65.

    Well all I can say is, I hope you are reading this Rooney, Terry et al. What a great piece of writing from a genuine era. Before you ask my age - I'm 43!!! I never saw the game played but have read all the write ups of the time. REAL footballers and REAL stars and heroes. Not like our motley crew. Can you imagine our lot losing 6-3 at Wembley? Rooney kicking his heels and gesticulating to the fans. John Terry shrugging his shoulders while thinking of his weekly wage. Ashley Cole? Well probably in a nightclub somewhere .....just after the final whistle. Take something from this piece and the stars of years gone by. Who knows, we may rise from our humble ashes once more.

  • Comment number 66.

    I would have loved to have seen this game and fully accept that this was truly one of the greatest sides ever. Surely one of the most impressive facts of all must be how unlikely it was that Hungary produced such a great team given they had a population of less than 10 million.

  • Comment number 67.

    My fiancee is Hungarian - I sent her the link to this article. She sent back one word - "Goosebumps!"

    Great article, and great to see such an incredible team remembered

  • Comment number 68.

    Please restore "one-two" to its rightful place and put permanent halt to that awful "give-and-go." All commentators on your side of the Atlantic take note. (I suspect the offending phrase originated here in the U.S.A.)

  • Comment number 69.

    What a fabulous set of comments, I'd really like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for getting involved in this magical story.

    Also great to see so many mentions for another golden team from an even earlier age, the Austrians of the 1930s. I'm pretty sure there's another blog in there somewhere.

    Now, specifically...

  • Comment number 70.

    1974andallthat - What would you call the England side that won 9(nine) - 3 at Hampden Park or has that been swept under the carpet?
    The question was about the "Magical Magyars" who gave the world a completely new type of football, the likes of which millions of people had never seen before! I did see them play albeit on TV. I didn't see "The Wembley Wizards" of 1928 and I doubt there are many people still alive that did so it is a comparison that can't really be made.

  • Comment number 71.

    16 - Imagine a player being that much better than the great Garrincha, who outshone Pele for much of the 1958 World Cup and almost won the 1962 one on his own. Wow.

    17 (and a few others) - Yeah, point taken. I've embarrassed myself there.

    19 - That's a brilliant story. Thanks for telling it.

    22 & 28 - Ditto.

    39 & 49 - You two are heroes. Francis, did you ever tell your mum what you did that day?!

    50 - Wow. I wonder if there's any chance of the last game I remember not being one of Forest's clamitous play-off semi-final second leg defeats...

  • Comment number 72.

    "England,the inventors of the game", are you re-writing history? "The game was invented north of the border.

  • Comment number 73.

    A great side sure.

    But lets not forget that within 3 years,in 1956, England had totaly destroyed the Brazilians aided by virtuseo Matthewes performance at Wembley whilst beating the world champs Germany 3-1 in Berlin.
    Had it not been for Munich England would have been a real world force through till 1970.

    Add the likes of Banks,Armfield,Haynes,Greaves,Charlton,Douglas,Wilson,Cooper,Osgood,etc etc to Edwards,Taylor,Byrne and possibly Coleman and Pegg and its easy to see why.

  • Comment number 74.

    Johnno...the 9-3?

    was at Wembley I was there,as a schoolboy, at the 'Glasgow End'.

  • Comment number 75.

    #56 Luis Nunes:

    When the ball went too high he used to comment, don't kill the birds it's
    not their fault.
    Every game I do watch his comments come to my mind, seeing super stars
    killing so many birds.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    I don't know if you meant this as poetry, but that's how I read it. Beautiful!

  • Comment number 76.

    Post 73 - most insightful.

    The first game after the World Cup of 1954 was at Wembley when England beat Germany 3 - 1. What a fabulous comeback after such terrible thrashings. It was a tremendous game, with a great performance from Stanley Mathews, but what an incredible show from Len Shackleton. He was all over the field that day, helping Roger Byrne at left back, linking with Mathews on the right wing, and scoring with a cheeky chip over the goalie from the edge of the box.

    Unfortunately, Len was guilty of being politically incorrect towards the FA and never played for England again.

    Also, thank you Stevo for adding your thoughts to the postings. It's nice to know that some bloggers care enough to read the follow-ups!

  • Comment number 77.

    amp46 - You are, of course, correct in saying the 9-3 game was at Wembley. I apologise for my decaying brains.

  • Comment number 78.

    We all talk here about how great Puskas was ( Greates player ever)but seem to forget all the other greats of his period! After he left Hungary he joined Real Madrid in 1958 and played in one of the best ever Champions League final in 1959/60 when Real beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7 - 3.( I listend to this game on the radio as we didn't have a TV in those days). In this game alone there were 3 other players who would certainly argue with him over this title, namely Di Stefano, Santamaria and Gento

  • Comment number 79.

    around 1954 53 there was some incredible scores like there were no goalies. that team in 53 had alf ramsey in defence and some decent players also, so hungary were some side. the 1st game i remember was england losing 1-2 to hungary in the 62 world cup on a flickery radio, i was so upset. if i rem right the brazil match that year wasnt on the tv we just got the score on the bbc news!!! ha ha.

  • Comment number 80.

    oldJohnno wrote:

    "1974andallthat - What would you call the England side that won 9(nine) - 3 at Hampden Park or has that been swept under the carpet?
    The question was about the "Magical Magyars" who gave the world a completely new type of football, the likes of which millions of people had never seen before! I did see them play albeit on TV. I didn't see "The Wembley Wizards" of 1928 and I doubt there are many people still alive that did so it is a comparison that can't really be made."

    I take your point but would add that the Wembley Wizards win was also as much about the manner of the win & the football played as it was about the scoreline.

    "Ivan Sharpe, the ex-player and writer, commented on the victory for the Athletic News: ‘England were not merely beaten. They were bewildered – run to a standstill, made to appear utterly inferior by a team whose play was as cultured and beautiful as I ever expect to see.’[5]

    More than 30 years later he was still writing the same thing, adding that he had never seen a performance to match it in all the time that he had been watching football."

  • Comment number 81.

    9-3 at wembley april 61, the scots team wasnt bad either(on paper) dave mc kay ect.greavsie got a hat trick and the best england centre forward since 61 bobby smith got 2 also.

  • Comment number 82.

    amp 46, you make a good point about munich...i would say the england side of 60-61 was better than the 1966 side. greaves at his peak was far better than hurst, smith was a superb centre forward......maurice norman was a better centre half than charlton,brilliant in the air, the 2 full backs armfield and mc neil and a few other gems like bobby charlton and bryan douglas...that was some side.

  • Comment number 83.

    Johathan, as th author of the original article, you have replied a number of times now and have still to acknowledge, mention, or comment on Jimmy Hogan... Why are you still refusing to acknowledge his impact on the great match in question..?

  • Comment number 84.

    el_dorado10 - Rosicky's new knees wrote: "Actually, it should instead say 'Unbeaten at home against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1872' given that the only teams to have beaten England at home were countries from within Great Britain and Ireland."

    - well, it's worth mentioning that England didn't play at home against anyone from outside the British Isles until 1923, and even then it didn't happen very often until after WWII.

  • Comment number 85.

    @61, MightyMagyars

    Thanks for the info and that film is on my lovefilm list!

    Maybe Hogan helped with false papers etc, I don't know, but the couple I know swear blind he was involved in some way. It's quiz night tomorrow so I'll be having words!

    Don't understand the comparisons between the Wembley Wizards and the '53 game tho. Wasn't the offside rule amended several times over that period?



  • Comment number 86.

    Mr Gorey - It wasn't intentional that I didn't comment, just wasn't quite sure what I could add to what you've thrown into the debate.

    To be honest, having done some very sketchy research, I'd like to find out more about your Mr Hogan - seems indeed like he had quite the impact on that Austrian side and then the Hungarian one.

    Wouldn't mind a bit more chat on the Meisl brothers either, similarly inspirational. It's like a minefield this story, isn't it?!

  • Comment number 87.

    @84, gj66

    Fair enough, I had always wondered how many times England faced continental opposition at home during the first half of the 20th century (The only notable instance I can think of would the 'Battle of Highbury' against then-world champions Italy). But to be honest I think mentioning England's home record is quite unnecessary when stressing how good the Magical Magyars were - surely the team's achievements and the way people have described them would say it all.

  • Comment number 88.

    Thanks for a great article.
    My father was born in Budapest in 1938 and listened to the 1953 Wembley match on the radio as a youth. He managed to get to the Nepp Stadion 6 months later to see the 7-1 demolition of England and can still talk about the fond memories to this day. (being a sprightly 72 year old) Then came the uprising of 56'and he had to take up arms along with his fellow students against the Russian army. He survived the siege and managed to make his way to England via the Red Cross.(but that's another story altogether) About 10 or so years ago I managed to buy him the VHS video of the whole of the 1953 Wembley match and he still keeps it in the television cabinet - not sure whether you can now get the DVD version ? The quality of the footage is quite good and the commentry from Kenneth Wolstenholme is fascinating - a truly classic football match.
    If you are in doubt about the impact of the 6-3 Wembley result and the place in history of the 'Magical Magyars' of the 50's then read 'Inverting the Pyramid' by Jonathan Wilson. The book takes the progress of the game from it's early roots through the different stages of development. The influence of Hogan, Chapman and Meisl in the early days is crucial. Eventually through the Austro-Hungary connection, to the South American influence, Michels/Cruyff's 'total football' right through to present day is eye-opening and a fascinating read. Will England ever learn !! (sorry I got diverted from the main topic slightly) PS my Dad will be rooting for England tonight.

  • Comment number 89.

    What a team. I was 8 years old. The TV was black and white. I sat as near to the screen as I could. It was unbelievable. I knew nothing of the arrogance of England (being unbeaten). To see Puskas, Hiderguti, and Co just pass the ball around, and score "at will" was terrific. Even at my tender age defeat was unpalatable - but this was something else. Later matches (7-1 in Budapest) and Scotland versus Hungary (another blitzing) was good to watch. Even a few years ago( 2005?), when I saw a van number plate with the International Code that I did not readily recognise, I called out through my window to the driver: "Where are you from?" When he said "Hungary", I instantly smiled, and said: "Puskas, Hiderguti", and waved him through. He knew what I was talking about. I went to Budapest only last year (2009), and tried to visit the "shrine" of the Galloping Major (Puskas). Budapest was so large that something had to give. Regrets

  • Comment number 90.

    ronnie...dont forget Johnny Haynes,the best passing inside forward I ever saw...and didn't win a carrot as a player.

    I see I,somehow, ommited from my list Bobby Moore...while Armfield was voted as the best full back in the world..at the 62 finals.

    76..yes we beat the reigning world champs in 54 and 56.

    Puskas later said they were terrified of Matthewes but I guess Stan had one of those games.

  • Comment number 91.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie Mansell the old Portsmouth player some years ago and he told me he was in the England squad for the Hungary games. He said he was very grateful that he didnt make the 1St eleven for those games !

  • Comment number 92.

    "Unbeaten at Wembley against countries from outside the British Isles, a record stretching back to 1863"

    Just to expand on the above, the Republic of Ireland beat England 2-0 at Goodison Park in 1948 thereby becoming the first overseas country to beat England on home soil - an even bigger shock considering a) the size of Ireland as a footballing nation and b) the fact that the defeat by Hungary wasn't really a shock at all.

  • Comment number 93.

    #3: Weird. England went into the 1953 match on the back of a World Cup elimination at the group stage and a defeat by America. Why on earth did they imagine they were so good? On what evidence?

    In reality, England went into that match (and the 1950 World Cup) with their deluded players and press thinking they were a hundred times better than they really were. And they got the humiliation they deserved.

    -----------

    The article clearly states that this was the first England defeat (to a non-British team) at Wembley. The article also says that this record began in 1863, and if you do the maths that's exactly 90 years of not losing to non-British teams. So given that Hungary weren't British and the match was at a stadium known for positive English results, it only makes sense for them to enter the match imagining themselves to come out as the winners.

  • Comment number 94.

    As a 14 year old back in 1960 I had the privalege of watching Feranc Puskas playing for Real Madrid against Eintracht Frankfurt in the European Cup final on a beautiful May evening at Hampden Park Glasgow along with an estimated 135,000 others.
    His magic along with Alfredo De Stefano was a sight to behold and its a game I will never forget as long as I live,that was football.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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