Football’s Match of the Century, Wembley, 25th November 1953.   1 comment

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The 25th November, 2013 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the so-called ‘Match of the Century’ at Wembley Stadium, between two national teams of England and Hungary. England had never been beaten on home soil by continental opposition and Hungary had gone twenty-four matches without defeat, winning twenty of them. Besides being the year of the Queen’s Coronation in the UK, it was also the ninetieth anniversary of the Football Association, now celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Hungarian ‘Golden Team‘ of the 1950s  had won international recognition in 1952 when they became Olympic Champions, beating Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final with late goals from Puskás and Czibor. Their 1953 international season began for the Hungarian team in April 1953 with a 1-1 draw against the Austrians in Budapest. Puskás played, alongside Czibor, who scored Hungary’s goal. However, some weeks later in Rome, the official Gusztáv Sebes ‘ensemble’ turned out for the European Cup match. The Olympic Stadium allowed eighty thousand spectators to watch with a mixture of awe and shock as the Magyars ran rings around their Italian opposition. Puskás twice found Lucidio Sementi’s net, followed up by a goal from Hidegküti. So the Hungarian team ran out of the new stadium as 3-0 winners. The team’s next match was in Stockholm where Puskás scored the opening goal as Hungary secured a 4-2 victory. Next came a clash with Czechoslovakia in October in Prague, with Puskás’ men securing an impressive  5-1 victory.   On October 11th, the Austrians were the opposition for the second time that year, this time in Vienna. This was Puskás’ fiftieth appearance for the national team. He didn’t celebrate with an individual goal, although the Hungarians were 3-2 winners. There were some unpleasant post-match minutes for the leader of the ruling Hungarian Workers’ Party, Mihály Farkas, who was there to present the captain with a beautiful twenty-four piece porcelain dinner service on the occasion of his fiftieth cap. In return, Puskás presented Farkas with a small silver cup, which were accompanied by some carefully chosen but sharp remarks about the situation in their homeland, which rather took the ‘statesman’ by surprise.

So it was that on 24th November 1953, ‘the Golden Team’ arrived in London, still unbeaten. The story of the match itself has been well told in documentary and feature films,  including the surviving recordings of the live television coverage, which is almost complete in both English (with commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme) and Hungarian. In addition, there are many printed sources covering the match, from match programmes, to still photographs and newspaper reports. Some of these are inserted below, together with the sleeve notes from the recently released DVD.:

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With their emphatic 6-3 win against England in 1953 at Wembley, Hungary had become the first team from outside the British Isles to defeat England on home soil, and they had followed this up with a 7-1 humiliation in Budapest before the World Cup. Billy Wright was England’s captain on both occasions, as he was in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland,  in which  they beat the host team 2-0, before the losing to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, the team which the Hungarians beat in the semi-final to go through to the ill-fated 3-2 defeat in the final against West Germany. The Hungarian team recovered over the next two years, and their last match was another 2-0 defeat of Austria on 14th October 1956, just nine days before the Uprising began in Budapest, resulting in the invasion by the Soviet Union in November and the flight of many refugees, including sportsmen and women. Puskás went into exile in Spain, playing for the glory team of Real Madrid, and many other members of the Golden Team also left to play their football elsewhere. They therefore went down in history as the greatest team never to win the World Cup, and although qualifying for the finals since, most recently in 1982 and 1986, the Hungarian national side has never again looked like one which could lift the trophy, as it looked certain to in 1954.

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Tibor Bán & Zoltán Harmos (2000), Ferenc Puskás. Budapest: Aréna

One response to “Football’s Match of the Century, Wembley, 25th November 1953.

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  1. Pingback: Football’s Match of the Century, Wembley, 25th November 1953. | hungarywolf

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