If you’re less than 36 years old, then the sad reality is that you’ve never seen Hungary compete in football’s greatest showpiece, the FIFA World Cup. It is a remarkable stat to digest and one that is hard to fully comprehend when you consider that before 1986, Hungary had actually taken part in nine World Cups.
These days though, the latest FIFA World Cup odds make no mention of the nation that made it to two finals, and instead, the closest you will get to Hungary in Qatar is neighboring Serbia who are priced at 90/1 to go all the way in the Middle East. Needless to say, this agonizing wait for World Cup qualification is made all the more difficult to swallow given that countries that share a border with Hungary, get to revel in the limelight that only a World Cup can give.
There was a growing expectation that this inexplicable hiatus from World Cups would be brought to an end after the country secured entry to Euro 2020, but a disastrous qualification bid for the tournament in Qatar ended with the Hungarian team finishing fourth in Group I. Notably, Marco Rossi’s men finished behind Albania and Poland which goes to show how disappointing their campaign was.
But it hasn’t always been this way for this proud footballing nation that used to be one of the most feared countries in the world.
The only substitute to score Hatrick in a World Cup game.
Hungary’s Laszlo Kiss is the only substitute to score a hat-trick in the World Cup. Kiss scored three goals for Hungary in a 5-1 win against El Salvador in Spain 1982.#WorldCupMixByDammydudu pic.twitter.com/GgFqYII55S
— Damilola Alagbe (@dammydudu) November 16, 2022
The good old days
Indeed, in just their second appearance at a World Cup, Hungary managed to make it to the 1934 final but eventually lost 4-2 to Italy in Paris. Incredibly, the Hungarians managed to achieve this feat again in 1954 when they blew the opposition away en route to the final only to lose to West Germany, this time by a scoreline of 3-2.
🇭🇺 Hungary had thrashed West Germany 8-3 in the group stage, were on a 30-game unbeaten run and raced into a 2-0 lead in the 1954 #WorldCup final 🏟️
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 4, 2021
Following the 1954 edition in Switzerland, Hungary would go on to record two quarter-final finishes at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups. Three more successful qualifications to the World Cup would follow with Hungary taking part in the 1978, 1982, and 1986 editions, which was when the drought started.
Up until that point, Hungary could boast of a rich history at the event having gone further than most teams who have taken part. How or why the wheels ended up falling off to the degree they have is hard to answer but it is ultimately a reminder of how very little is guaranteed when it comes to qualification for World Cups.
In fact, a gap of 36 years is relatively short compared to Wales’ 64-year wait between World Cups. The same can, of course, be said for Iceland who went from 1958 to 2018 without playing at a World Cup.
Admittedly, these harrowing examples of the long-lasting gaps between World Cup qualification will do nothing to fill Hungarian fans with optimism but records are there to be broken at some stage.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) June 4, 2022
In addition to that and as initially touched on, there have been steps in the right direction under Rossi which will hopefully mean that Hungarian fans can book their plane tickets to America in 2026.
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