Hungary vs. Scotland (1954)

The colossal and reverend Hampden Park, Glasgow Scotland in 1954.   113,506 spectators filled the stadium to watch their team against the Golden Team on Dec. 10, 1954.
Table of Contents
Ferenc Puskás
József Bozsik
Gyula Grosics
Gustáv Sebes
1952-1953 Matches
'Match of the Century'
The 1954 World Cup
1960 European Cup

     ONE does not ordinarily think of Scotland as being the best national side of the nineteenth century, but Scottish players would see nothing unusual about using passing combinations to be exactly that as one of a group of national teams who have done so much to lay the groundwork for the game's invention and re-invention.  Being the second oldest association in the world (est. 1873), Scottish football tactics attracted a sizable following among those who appreciated a new clinical eye for passing details, that is to say they began to learn the ease and elegance with which defenses could be bypassed by moving the ball, transferring it progressively step by step from the back to midfield to attack that found explosive realization as an excellent one worthy of persistent cultivation.  The timeworn rugbyesque game filled with teams relaxed in the platitude of classic and outworn customs of long individual hauling within a looser framework was now leavened by a questing of the eye and imagination that sped the revolution by which football became highly visual and descriptive and take on new largeness within a tactical space of teamwork.

     Reflecting this broad new interest during days when forwards surpassed midfielders and defenders on the pitch and because of the extreme individualism shown by the English game, English teams did not fit into a pattern of winning against their oldest rivals, getting wins in all but two of their next 10 games against Scotland.  Scotland's only loss in these 32 games had been a 0-5 loss to England on March 17, 1888.  They had also put together the world's first great winning streak of 22 undefeated games (drawing only twice), a 65-year world record that would stand until the Hungarian team of 1953 eventually eclipsed it against Sweden in Budapest.

     Scotland eagerly desired their upcoming match with Hungary that still everyone thought of as the best in the world and were hoping for a larger result that had befallen England the year before.  One of the largest crowds ever assembled for an international football match in Europe saw 113,506 people watch from the terraces in Glasgow's reverend Hampden Park as Scotland, sufficiently stimulated, anticipated directing a better counter attacking game and earn better credit than their rivals.  In the leadup, initial rehearsals were staged through three full-scale practice scrimmages against sides in the domestic league.   

      During windy and chilly conditions in the north, a cadre of Scottish Highlanders with their bagpipes rolled onto the field in opening ceremonies before the kick-off. 

      At 20 minutes a József Bozsik's kick that glanced off Haddick sent the keeper Tommy Ring sprawling as it burrowed into the net, Hungary : 0 Scotland. Barely six minutes later Puskás from the left side sent the ball to the penalty spot where Hidegkuti with one-touch directed it just inside the left post, Hungary : 0 Scotland.   

      Scotland replied in the 41st minute and the huge crowd roared its approval, Hungary : 1 Scotland.   In the 43rd minute, Károly Sándor was running at half strength on the hard pitch down a center lane vis-a-vis the goalkeeper who dashed out and deflected the kick and the ball was sent bouncing wide right. From the right side of the six-yard box Sándor rolled it past one last defender to make the score 3—1, Hungary : 1 Scotland.  A freekick taken by Mackenzie was headed home by Johnstone inside the left post past the Hungarian keeper Farago and loud applause broke with elemental force in the monumental stadium, Hungary : 2 Scotland.

      Scotland pulled out all the stops to give their all and the Hungarians noted the full sailing spirit and vividly robust style that described the Scots' passion who were later upbraided for their hard tackling.  One adventurous player called Reilly, in one scene, charged the keeper Faragó and knocked him out cold.  Scotland kept it close and showed the audience wonderful heart and character until the end.  But it is not enough that Scotland played truly intensely as the Golden Team with Sándor Kocsis suffices to restore a 2-goal lead in the 89th minute as the Scots were found spaced out and Sándor Kocsis carried the team over the finish line with a quick counterattack goal.  

Hungary : 2 Scotland (Bozsik 20', Hidegkuti 26', Sándor 43', Kocsis 89')

The Inspiration for the European Cup (Champions League)

 Wolverhampton vs. Honvéd (1954)

      SOME days later came a match of vaster scope that would be an oracle in the development of a tournament for top clubs in Europe, the establishment of the glamorous 'European Champions Cup' whose origins arose from a legendary performance on a dreary wintry night on December 13th at the Molineux stadium. The Honvéd club, the Hungarian champions were regarded the best league side in the world and involved six players in the makeup of the Golden Team, were invited to play Wolverhampton, the English league leaders, in a prestige match managed by Stan Cullis.

     It was manager Stan Culls who insisted on the necessity of raising stadium floodlights on the home ground of the Wanderers in September of that year in preparation for big prestige matches first against Spartak Moscow (whom they beat 4-0 after 80 scoreless minutes) in November.  It would be set upon Cullis to face the touchstone and questionless gold standard of Honvéd.  While Honvéd was coming off a long tour and six of their players had participated in the Scotland game three days before, Stan Cullis had cunningly leavened the match to his favor by confronting the great Honvéd players with the same class of problems that had stricken them in the 1954 World Cup Final — flooding the pitch at half-time to make the ground sodden and again drenched, tiring and tentative for players, and used the groundman's heaviest roller to press the moisture into the surface.

     Then came the big important vanguard game with Honvéd on December 13 with around 60,000 in attendance. This celebrated event would give a nascent leadoff to a highly respected and prestigious tournament and help frame modern European football's cultural and institutional picture and create a world of top-tier football heroes, a new world of European soccer powers and passions and moments of ecstasy unlike any other audiences had met before in a grand tournament of first-place finishers at the highest level of football excellence. The match between the Wolverhampton and Honvéd was the place to be that night and illumined the environment for pan-European football as a giant stride toward the "European Cup" was made at last.

      As usual, the Hungarians got off to a fast start and the score was 2-0 after 14 minutes with Kocsis and Machos scoring before half-time.  Like in the World Cup Final of 1954, a two-nil advantage seemed to be a settled matter.  At halftime, Stan Cullis gave instructions: the whole team were urged to strike longer passes down the edges to avail of the pace and earnest running of their wingers.  Four minutes into the second half, the referee rather harshly punished Kovaks for a foul on Hancocks and the same player converted the penalty.  Now the roaring crowd, joined by thousands more watching the live television, began a tall upshift in momentum that had an authority over the audience as both sides played feverishly on the surface of wet mire and muck as local hearts tilted towards an upset.  As Wolverhampton swept forward, Honvéd’s sprightly passing game and verve seemed devitalized by the churning glistening morass under their shoes.  Cullis’s early-morning briefing began to make sense to Atkinson. “Honvéd gradually got bogged down,” he said. “The mud just wore the Hungarians out.” 

     In the 76th minute, Roy Swinbourne, the center-forward, headed home a cross from Dennis Wilshaw.  Two minutes later the pair combined again and Swinbourne provoked scenes of near hysteria with a thumping shot that put the Wolves ahead.  Tired and chastened sloughing through the wet slush, Honvéd mounted one defiant late rally and Zoltán Czibor was denied by the plunging Williams as he threatened with a late equalizer.  Once Leafe’s final whistle had confirmed the epic 3-2 win, newspapermen descended on the home dressing-room where they found an unusually emotional Cullis groping in search of the right words to convey his feelings. “There they are,” he said, gesturing at his mud-streaked, worn-out players, “the champions of the world.” 

     In the News Chronicle, Charles Buchan wrote: “Wolves struck another decisive blow for English football with as wonderful a second-half rally as I have seen in 40 years.” The Daily Mirror had sent its star columnist, Peter Wilson to the match and his account, which began on the front page, said: “I have never seen a greater thriller than this. And if I see many more as thrilling, I may not live much longer anyway.

      Almost immediately calls for a European 'champions' league' widened considerably and to formally establish a tournament between the champions of the various European leagues to replicate those dramatic qualities heightened by feelings of atmosphere that they had first witnessed between Honvéd and Wanderhampton that electrified evening in 1954.  European football, geared to a new high by the recent demands made by the positive enjoyment of the crowd and sportswriters conceived the 'European Champions Club Cup' in 1956.


Hungary vs. Soviet Union (Sept. 1956)

        As with most Socialist Bloc countries in 1949, most sports in Hungary, including football, were re-purposed to align with the Soviet model in a spirit of 'collective leadership'.   Apart the games with old sporting rivals Austria, with whom the competition had lasted 54 years, whom most Hungarians wanted to beat were the Russians now representing the foreign occupying army in the land since the end of the war.  In earlier matches, one in Moscow in May of 1952 saw the score 1-1, another visit to Moscow in the autumn of 1954 begot a 0-0 score, that later led to a 1-1 score in Budapest next year in September.  The failure to defeat the Soviets by a team that most everyone still considered the best in the world spoke invariably to a level best featuring the Soviet side.  For years, stories and suspicions were circulating in Hungary that somehow political innuendo and plotting informed the players not to excel against the Soviets.

Puskás leads out the Golden Team in their last great victory, a maiden home defeat against the Soviet Union in a 1-0 win in front of 105,000 in Lenin Stadium. Behind him the unbeatable Grosics, the man in the cap is the Soviet Union's greatest player, keeper Lev Yashin, Oct. 23, 1956
Puskás leads out the Golden Team in their last great victory, a maiden home defeat
against the Soviet Union in a 1-0 win in front of 105,000 in Lenin Stadium. Behind
him the unbeatable Grosics,  the man in the cap is the Soviet Union's greatest
player, keeper Lev Yashin. September. 23, 1956.

     The Soviet Union established its national team in 1923 a few months after the Russian Civil War and up to 1956 featured an undiminished tone and obdurate grand style: a highly efficient and energetic mode the rippled with soundness.  The Soviets became officially sanctioned and recognized by FIFA in 1954.  The real star of the Soviet Union was one Lev Yashin, a certain young and determined keeper.  This remarkable player is by most consent considered, and thought of still, as the greatest goalkeeper who ever graced the sport for whom the FIFA Lev Yashin Award was later founded.

     Taking place amid Yashin’s exceptional influence in framing the defense around goal as an ironbound coast, the Soviet team improved its competence and kept scores very close that allowed the Soviet Union to rival the world’s best teams.  Very early upon his arrival to set the poise, scores against the Soviet Union began to descend and major honors were soon achieved.  Yashin and the Soviets would win the 1956 Olympic football tournament in Melbourne (defending champions Hungary did not send its national team to the games that it won in 1952), and famously win the prestigious inaugural of European Championship in 1960 and four years later earn 2nd-place in the same competition.  Quarterfinal matches in 1958 the 1962 World Cups were carried on and by the 1966 World Cup, a high semi-final placing was achieved.  For almost one to elevate the landscape of Soviet Union football as a literal final guarantor of its success, more than anyone Lev Yashin and with a passel of capable players attached drove the Soviet Union to high winning dramatics to be upwardly mobile in the ascendant and ultimately six years on the Soviet Union would become the No. 1-rated team in the world.

     Yet, even with the frontispiece muskateering of Puskás, Kocsis, Hidegkuti, Bozsik, Hungary was not able to bypass and get past the Soviet defensive phalanx that presented problems for every national side. The 0-0 game in 1954, and the 1-1 draw in 1955 beset the Hungarians with the onerousness posed by the bullish Soviet team marshaled by Yashin.  Although they did not know of events what would occur exactly a month later that would spark the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution, on September 23 Hungary traveled to Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow with hopes of a good showing. The much-fancied match also found a rather straightforward story — it would be the third match between the deeply learned master Gyula Grosics and immensely talented Lev Yashin for an unmistakable and great happening between two supreme keepers of the 20th Century.

     Central Lenin Stadium in Moscow was not an inviting place. It was a colossal temple of Soviet sport, and certainly one of the most grand, forbidding and intimidating citadels in football that swamped foreign teams into capsizing showcases and offered little concession.

      The Soviet Union team was rated the No.14 team in the world that was converted into a far greater one in Moscow.  With Yashin directing the defense flush with prime animation and after coming off a 2-1 victory over 'world champion' West Germany in Hanover eight days before, the Soviets carpeted the Hungarian Golden Team for a fourth battle to judge perspectives at the top level.  With the world-beating Soviet Union national hockey team yet to occur some years later any victory over Hungary in football would be valued vindication for Soviet sports propaganda to shape a bellwether role in the Socialist Bloc.  The Hungarians were anxious for a maiden defeat away against the Soviets for any number of reasons that would mean so much illustriousness in realms more than just football.  On the very same ground where best international efforts made scant progress, a huge 105,000 Russian crowd received the Hungarians in what would be fittingly the Golden Team’s last great performance as a full team and the finest of swan songs.  It was perhaps the hardest away game ever played by the Magical Magyars that autumn day in Moscow and one of the most remembered. 

     To recall a little bit of the old glory, in the 16th minute, the Hungarian offense pushed the ball deep into the Soviet area.  Left-winger Zoltán Czibor with those amazing mercurial skills seizes the pass on the right flank out of position.  From the far righthand side inside the penalty area Czibor drove a sublimely floating ball that carried weight towards the Soviet goal. The accurate rising shot came from a long and difficult angle. Czibor’s ball had enough lifting arc that it got past Yashin’s reach and sailed topside into goal with good speed bouncing into the net off the crossbar.

Hungary 1 : 0 Soviet Union (Czibor 16') 

      From Czibor’s score onward, the rest of the game depended entirely on Hungary’s defense to win the match.  Despite best efforts, neither team managed to score another goal against the other as Gyula Grosics's defense stoutly maintains famous proceedings 1-0 at the whistle in a game highly admired back home.  For many Hungarians after the 1956 Revolution that stood against a Soviet-backed regime Zoltán Czibor’s epic goal in Moscow in the autumn of 1956 stood as a long object of admiration and discussion among old timers and enthusiasts.

      Czibor’s fine brave goal that valorized the huge match occurred four weeks before the Hungarian Revolution and lent inspiration to many and remains a fascinating picture of daring and courageous nostalgia that embellished the renown the Golden Team all the more.  Czibor's goal was the ultimate exercise of free will not set to parameters of Soviet influence or control, the win invariably evoked liberties accorded Hungarian football supported by the best players, that the team was not subject to any panoply of tyranny at use at the time, and that it had remained wholly free that Czibor’s finest goal explained more than anything.  The game is a crowning product of the Magical Magyars' ripe autumnal career which would end exactly a month later. 

       Puskás, Kocsis and Czibor, three of the vital irreplaceable parts of the Golden Team — men all of personal sovereignty, integrity and fame — decided to defect to Spain in the West while on tour abroad, a brave act that multiplied their worlds.  The defection of these three persons brought matters to a crisis and threatened Hungarian football's cause for, by all opinions, these three excelled all others in their positions and were indispensable and it was likely that no one would ever again play quite like these men of an earlier time were able to.  Above all the agreements that the Golden Team was one of the greatest ever, it begins to tell the story how their achievements lay the foundation of a new epoch: behind lay the old pre-1954 era of Uruguay, Italy, and England.  The different heirs of the Magical Magyars opened up a new age with roads opening for Brazil, West Germany, Holland and the Soviet Union, all four, one way or another the inheritors of the greatest team that ever graced the game.

Long Live the Team that overwhelmed and reinvented the sport and authentically won the 1954 world title!

The End