The Hungarian National football team played an international match against England on 25 November 1953. At the time, Hungary was one of the best national teams and the Olympic Champions. The game was played in England, at the Wembley Stadium, where England had never lost an international game.
The date of the match was already fixed during the Olympics. However, Mátyás Rákosi almost cancelled it because of fear of failure. However, not only the two countries but the whole of Europe and the football world were waiting for the match, and this huge expectation had to be met. The English press proclaimed this game as the “match of the century” where two worlds, two football powers, two giants, the style of play of the past, the innovators, the inventors of the sport, and the Olympic Champion clashed, the “English lions” and the “magical Hungarians”. The preparation of the Hungarian team was extremely precise. The advantages and disadvantages of the opponent’s tactics have been filtered out. They felt this match was so important that the parameters of Wembley Stadium were remodelled to a Hungarian field so that the players got even more accustomed to the outdoor conditions.
The starting team of the Hungarians: Gyula Grosics, Jenő Buzánszky, Gyula Lóránt, Mihály Lantos, József Bozsik, József Zakariás, László Budai, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Ferenc Puskás, Zoltán Czibor. Coach: Gusztáv Sebes.
The starting team of England: Gil Merrick, Alf Ramsey, Harry Johnston, Bill Eckersley, Billy Wright, Jimmy Dickinson, Stanley Matthews, Ernie Taylor, Stan Mortensen, Jackie Sewell, George Robb. Coach: Walter Winterbottom.
The referees of the match were from the Netherland. The match was played on the afternoon of 25th November 1953 in front of more than 100,000 spectators. Before the match, the two captains, Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskás, welcomed each other.
Hungary started the match and scored within the first minute. The scorer was Nándor Hidegkuti with a powerful shot. After 15 minutes, the score was 1-1 after Jackie Sewell shot the ball into the goal of Gyula Grosics. However, Hungary proved undefeatable; in the 20th minute, Hidegkuti scored again after a bad English clearance, and four minutes later, Ferenc Puskás scored the third goal. Puskás made his famous “drag-back” – as Billy Wright attempted to tackle him, Puskas dragged back the ball with the sole of his foot an instant before, leaving the English captain chasing empty space. Puskás scored his second goal in the 27th minute after he hit the ball from József Bozsik’s free-kick. Near the end of the first half, Mortensen scored a goal for the English team. The halftime score was 4-2 for the Hungarians.
The second half was quite the same as the first. Hungary was the better team technically and tactically. Bozsik scored in the 52nd minute to make it 5-2. Three minutes later, Hidegkuti completed his hat-trick with a great volley. On an England attack, Robb was fouled by Grosics. Ramsey scored from the penalty. The rest of the game was end-to-end. Hungary defended well, and England had no good chances. The final score was 6-3. Hungary had a shocking 35 shots on goal to England’s five.
The result was largely determined by tactical naivety from the English manager and players. The fitness of the Hungarians in comparison to the English players was notable. Sir Bobby Robson said about the game: “We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before. None of these players meant anything to us. We didn’t know about Puskás. All these fantastic players, they were men from Mars as far as we were concerned.”
On 23 May 1954, England visited Budapest in the hope of avenging the 6-3 defeat. Instead of avenging, Hungary beat England 7-1. It still is the most severe defeat for the English National football team. The result sent a shockwave through English football. For the first time, English managers and coaches started to look to the continent for tactical and training advances. In memory of the victory in sports history and in honour of the Golden Team, in 1993, on the 40th anniversary of the match, the Hungarian Football Association declared November 25 to be the day of Hungarian football.
Contrary to great expectations, few people saw this match in Hungary. In 1953, there was no television broadcast yet. The match was broadcast on the Hungarian Radio by a reporter, the legendary György Szepesi. In 1996, the BBC donated a copy to the Hungarian Television. The voice of György Szepesi was added to the picture.
In 2020, the original copy was digitally restored in Hungary. The restored copy was made by Hungarian Telekom. The revamped version, which was also coloured around the goals, was shown on a Hungarian TV channel (Super TV2) on November 25, 2020, the 67th anniversary of the match. The match was shown as if it were today. The expert conversation, mid-term and post-match analysis, all make us feel like it is all happening live. The match can be viewed in its entirety in Hungarian for another 3 months in the Telekom Video Library or in the video below.