Monday, November 25, 2013

25 November 1953 - The Continental Shift

On 25 November 1953, Hungary beat England 3-6 at Wembley, signalling a power shift in international football.

England were widely considered one of the world's best teams and had, to that point, lost only once at home (a defeat to Ireland in 1949). Hungary, however, were a rising power, propelled by their star forward Ferenc Puskás, who had scored 59 goals in 33 national team appearances. They were also riding a 24-game unbeaten streak that stretched back to May 1950 and included a victory over Yugoslavia in the gold medal match at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

The teams met at Wembley for the friendly, with a crowd of 105,000 in attendance. The home team and their supporters were stunned when Hungary took the lead in just the first minute with a goal from midfielder Nándor Hidegkuti. England's Jackie Sewell equalized twelve minutes later, but Hungary pushed back ahead with another goal from Hidegkuti (20') and a brace from Puskás (24', 27').

Puskás's first was emblematic of the dayPuskás evaded an attempted tackle from England captain Billy Wright by dragging the ball back with the sole of his foot, leaving Wright chasing air, then calmly put the ball past keeper Gil Merrick. It was an example of the creativity and style shown by the visitors that day which left the hosts flummoxed.

Stan Mortensen closed the gap to 2-4 at the break with a 38th-minute strike, but a goal from József Bozsik (50') and Hidegkuti's completed hat-trick (53') extended it to 2-6. By the time Alf Ramsey scored the last goal in the 57th minute, the game was all but over.

The result prompted England to re-evaluate their tactics, while Hungary went on to extend their unbeaten streak to reach the final of the 1954 World Cup, where they eventually lost to West Germany.

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