Videoton FC could make national history this week by becoming the first Hungarian club to survive the group stage of a major UEFA competition.
Their fate is not entirely in their own hands, however, as they enter the final round of UEFA Europa League Group G fixtures on Thursday needing to win at Sporting Clube de Portugal and for second-placed FC Basel 1893 to slip up at KRC Genk. "We know things are much more difficult now," admitted Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa after Videoton's home loss to Genk on 22 November, yet hope still remains for a team placed two points behind Basel at present.
In one sense it would be fitting if Videoton were to upset the odds given they achieved the last notable feat by a Hungarian side in Europe when in 1985 they went on a remarkable run to the UEFA Cup final, only to succumb 3-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid CF.
Here we celebrate five great Hungarian firsts in European football.
• Vasas SC, 1957/58
First Hungarian semi-finalists in a major European competition
Amid the political upheaval of 1950s Hungary, Vasas made the country's first significant impact on the continental stage by defeating PFC CSKA Sofia, BSC Young Boys and AFC Ajax on their way to a European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-final against Real Madrid. A 4-0 reverse at the Santiago Bernabéu, a defeat which included an Alfredo Di Stéfano hat-trick, seemed to have sealed the Budapest side's fate but the Hungarian titleholders rallied in the second leg and were two goals up after 53 minutes, only for Madrid to hang on for a 4-2 aggregate victory.
• Ferenc Puskás (Real Madrid CF, 1959/60)
First (and only) Hungarian to earn the match ball in a European final
Among the legendary Puskás's many achievements is his record four-goal haul in the 1960 European Cup final when Eintracht Frankfurt were blown away by the sharpshooting of 'The Galloping Major' and his accomplice Di Stéfano. The Argentinian registered a hat-trick but was trumped by Puskás's four goals, a performance which confirmed his return to the highest level of world football after his earlier exploits with Budapest Honvéd FC and Hungary.
• Nándor Hídegkuti (ACF Fiorentina, 1960/61)
First Hungarian coach to win a major European trophy
In 1961 both UEFA club competition victories were masterminded by Hungarian coaches with former international forward Hídegkuti leading Italy's Fiorentina to glory in the Cup Winners' Cup four days before Béla Guttmann steered Benfica to a European Cup final victory over FC Barcelona. Hídegkuti was halfway through a two-year coaching stint with the team from Florence who overcame Rangers FC 4-1 on aggregate. He later returned to Hungary to guide provincial team Győri ETO FC to the European Cup semi-finals in 1964/65.
• MTK Budapest, 1963/64
First Hungarian team to reach a European final
Two of Hungary's greatest players, Ferenc Kovács and Károly Sándor, helped MTK get past PFC Slavia Sofia, BSG Motor Zwickau, Fenerbahçe SK and Celtic FC as they became the first Eastern European club to reach the final of a UEFA club competition, where they faced Sporting in Brussels. A goal-laden 3-3 draw, with Sándor scoring twice, led to a replay two days later but an early goal from Sporting was enough to deny MTK.
• Flórián Albert (Ferencvárosi TC, 1967)
First (and only) Hungarian to win the Ballon D'Or
One of Europe's finest strikers, the elegant Ferencváros player led the Hungary forward line for more than a decade and inspired his only club to victory in the 1965 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the only European trophy won by a Hungarian team. Nicknamed 'The Emperor', he received the coveted European Footballer of the Year award in 1967 after scoring at a rate of more than a goal a game to fire Ferencváros to the Hungarian title.
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