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So close yet so far; Hungary’s ‘Mighty Magyars’ famously lost the 1954 Cup, and never won it again

A legendary Hungarian Football team was formed in the 1950s comprising the greats like Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Gyula Grosics and Jozsef Bozsik. The team that successfully implemented the ‘Sebes Method’, the concept of ‘Total Football’ that was later adopted by the Dutch, went into the 1954 World Cup on a 32-game unbeaten run.

Hungarian captain Ferenc Puskas exchanging pleasantries with his English counterpart

Hungary was the reigning Olympic Champion who beat Romania, Italy, Sweden and Yugoslavia on their way to win gold. In 1953, they famously defeated England 6-3 at Wembley and in a rematch at Budapest they thrashed them 7-1. It was this team of Hungary who were favourite to win the 1954 World Cup.

Hungary began their World Cup campaign by destroying South Korea 9-0. Kocsis scored a hat trick and Puskas netted 2 goals. Three days later in Basle, they thrashed West Germany 8-3. Here again Kocsis was the star with four goals, Hidegkuti and Puskas scored 2 and 1 goal respectively. But a nasty foul on Puskas forced him out until the final.

Hungary’s ill-tempered match against Brazil in 1954

Despite having their best player on the bench, Hungary won the famous ‘Battle of Berne’ by 4-2 against Brazil. The match was one of the nastiest in the history of World Cup where there were three red cards, a pitch invasion, fighting in the tunnel and more fighting in the dressing room. Though Puskas was not in the match, he got into the action immediately after the match and was seen fighting desperately with the Brazilian Pinneiro.

Next followed the semi-final against defending champion Uruguay, one of the classic contests of World Cup. Uruguay came back in the match when Juan Holberg scored a pair of goals in the final 15 minutes to tie the game at 2-2. The match went into the extra time but Kocsis did not further allow any Uruguayan magic by scoring his 10th and 11th goals of the tournament to give Hungary a 4-2 win and a place in the final against West Germany.

 

Hungary and West Germany enter the field before the final

A repeat of Hungary’s first-round demolition of West Germany was anticipated as Kocsis was already in his golden form, Hidegkuti was giving a nightmare to the opposing defence and Puskas, though not totally fit, was ready to play the final match. But that was perhaps the greatest mistake Hungary did in order to lose the World Cup.

Puskas was far away from his usual self as he missed passes and chances giving the opponent enough time to gain confidence. Moreover his inclusion in place of winger Lazlo Budai was seen by many as unethical as Budai played well in the semifinal and apparently it proved Puskas’ jealousy of him.

But at the beginning of the match those hitches were unnoticeable as Hungary ripped apart the West German defence to go up 2-0 inside 10 minutes. The Germans, who were still a bunch of amateurs, were finding answers to Hugary’s attacking Football and this time they were successful. Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn rescued by scoring two goals and equaling the score at 2-2.

Ferenc Puskas in action against West Germany

Hungary dominated the second half and launched several furious attacks on the German goal. But Germany weathered the storm to net two more goals to give themselves the famous ‘Miracle of Berne’. The Hungarians were shell-shocked and stunned. After the campaign they did not go back to Budapest but settled in an unknown town in order to avoid anger and desperation from the crowd in their homeland.

Thus, the disintegration of one of the greatest Football team started from that final of 1954 and gradually shaped up massively. The fearsome unit of Kocsis, Hidegkuti, Czibor, Grosics, Bozsik crumbled. They started playing more club matches and gave lesser time in national preparations. Thus, when they again met at 1958 World Cup in Sweden, they were nothing but reduced to a team far removed from their magical touch. The ‘Mighty Magyars’ remain in history as the greatest team ever to play in the World Cup but never to win it.

About Poulomi Kundu

PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata. After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata. In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer. Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream. So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

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