Football's Forgotten History: the rise and fall of Hungary

Oren Brown discusses the rise and fall of the Hungarian men's national football team.

Oren Brown
9th November 2020
The Magnificent Magyars - the ‘Golden Team’. World Cup runners-up, and one of the greatest international sides of the 20th century. 70 years on, the Hungarian national team struggles to qualify for the Euros. What happened?

To the average fan, the Hungary national football team is just one of those sides that you might come up against in a mid-season friendly. Clean sheet, Harry Kane brace - that’s what England would want against Hungary nowadays. It wasn’t always like that, though; Hungary once rivaled the greatest teams in the world.

Enjoying one of the most dominant periods of international football ever from 1950-54, Hungary went four years without a loss, won gold at the Olympics, and beat England 6-3 in a game dubbed the ‘Match of the Century’. With all-time greats such as Ferenc Puskás and Sándor Kocsis leading their line, they were a behemoth of the age.

With all-time greats such as Ferenc Puskás and Sándor Kocsis leading their line, they were a behemoth of the age.

Hungary were even such nailed on favourites for the 1954 World Cup Final against West Germany that the game is now referred to as the ‘Miracle of Bern’ because Germany won. Now, the best part of a century later, Germany hope to soon achieve their 5th World Cup title while Hungary languish around 50th in the World Rankings.

It was considered a shock when Hungary managed to qualify for Euro 2016, given that their last appearance in an international competition was all the way back in 1986. Even worse, Hungary haven’t made it out of a World Cup group stage since 1966.

So what went so badly wrong for the Magyars after their ‘50s dominance?

Though the answer is vague at best, it most likely comes down to money. In England and Germany, young footballers are trained and developed in state of the art facilities by the greatest coaches on the planet, with billions being funnelled into their development. It becomes only a matter of time, in these countries, before a star emerges. Hungary, meanwhile, has very little potential to generate world class athletes with their lack of infrastructure.

It is a little sad that we may never see Hungary reach the heights of the Magnificent Magyar years, but it is pretty amazing to look back on them as the best in the world. It is worth considering that something like that may no longer be possible in modern football, and may never be again - so their story is one to cherish.

Featured image: Twitter @MLSZhivatalos
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AUTHOR: Oren Brown
English student, or something.

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