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Dream Team

Updated on July 27th 2021, 3:12:33 am

1950s Hungary: The Mighty Magyars

The Hungarian football team of the 1950s changed the sport of football, changing the way it was played and breaking records in the process. A new style of play under Sebes' visionary leadership and Puskas' superb on-pitch leadership

The Hungarian football team of the 1950s changed the sport of football, changing the way it was played and breaking records in the process. The squad established a new style of play under Sebes' visionary leadership and Puskas' superb on-pitch leadership, which included a revolutionary withdrawn centre-forward role (Hidegutki), a sweeper-keeper, and fluid movement between positions for other players, particularly Czibor. Between 1950 and 1956, the squad won 42 games, drew seven times, and only lost once, against West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final.


Coach: Gustav Sebes

Trophies: 2 Central European International Cups (1948 & 1953), 1 Olympic Gold (1952), World Cup finalists (1954)

Star Players: Ferenc Puskas, Sander Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Jozsef Bozsik, Gyula Grocis


The Hungarian national team was unbeaten from 1949 through 1954. Sebes, Hungary's Deputy Minister of Sports at the time, and Bukovi had built a well-oiled football machine that played quick, direct attacking football. The Mighty Magyars made their Olympic debut in Helsinki in 1952. In the semi-finals, they defeated Italy 3-0, Turkey 7-1, and Sweden 6-0. They defeated Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final to win the Olympic title. They also won the Central European Championships in 1953 and were tipped to win the World Cup the following year. Hungary competed in the Central European International Cup, a nations cup for Central European teams that served as a predecessor to the European tournament, in 1953. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Switzerland were among the teams competing. Hungary breezed to a 3–0 victory over Italy in the final, thanks to a goal from Nándor Hidegkuti and two goals from Puskás.


By this time, England's Footballing Royalty had become intrigued. The Magyars were shrouded in obscurity. Before believing something, the English always want to see it for themselves. It was a dream match for bookmakers, who dubbed it the "Match of the Century." By that time, the Magyars of the East had been unbeaten for nearly three years. Meanwhile, no team from outside the United Kingdom and Ireland had ever beaten England on their home turf. The game was held in front of a crowd of 105,000 people at Wembley Stadium. Hungary scored in the first minute and led 4–1 after 27 minutes. The final score was 6–3, with Hidegkuti scoring a hat-trick, Puskás scoring two goals, and Bozsik scoring one. It was a footballing lesson that reverberated across the English game, prompting English clubs to adopt more modern coaching and tactics.


After the humiliation at Wembley, England was out for vengeance, and a rematch was set for May 23, 1954 in Budapest, three weeks before the commencement of the 1954 World Cup. Any expectations that the Wembley game was an outlier were quickly dashed as Hungary defeated England 7–1, delivering England's biggest ever defeat. This team awed every other team on the planet. At the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland, ‘The Mighty Magyars' were heavy favourites. Hungary was placed in the same group as West Germany. Hungary made light work of their opponents, as expected, given their form entering the competition, which included a resounding 8-3 victory over West Germany and qualification to the knockout rounds.


Puskas, however, suffered a hairline fracture to his ankle as a result of a defensive foul by Werner Liebrich, putting him out of the tournament until the finish. Without their talismanic player, Hungary had to carry on. To advance to the final, the Magyars defeated Brazil in the quarterfinals and Uruguay in the semifinals, both by a score of 4-2 apiece. In West Germany, familiar opponents awaited. Ference Puskas started the game for the Hungarians on that historic rainy evening in Bern, much to the pleasure of their fans, and found the net after just 6 minutes, putting his naysayers to rest.


Czibor made it 2–0 to Hungary two minutes later. However, the Germans recovered and, thanks to Max Morlock, quickly cut the deficit to 2–1. Helmut Rahn scored a goal from a corner kick in the 18th minute to bring the Germans level. Helmut Rahn scored West Germany's third goal with six minutes remaining and the score still 2–2. Puskás appeared to equalise two minutes before the finish, but he was called offside. Hungary's spotless run came to an end in one of the biggest upsets in football history. The "Miracle of Bern" ended with West Germany winning 3–2. Hungary continued to dominate international football, playing 19 games between July 1954 and February 1956, winning 16, drawing three, and losing none.