UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

The greatest teams of all time: Hungary 1950–56

Founded in Communism and a fluid approach that proved the harbinger of Total Football, the Magical Magyars redrew the football map in the 1950s, losing one in 50 at one stage.

The greatest teams of all time: Hungary (1950-56) ©Getty Images

UEFA.com analyses the teams that changed football; this time, the Hungarian 'Magical Magyars' side that shook up the game in the 1950s.

The golden age
A 5-2 pasting away to Czechoslovakia in April 1949 was a watershed moment for Hungarian football. Recently appointed coach Gusztáv Sebes did away with the established stars; in came youthful, malleable fresh faces like Sándor Kocsis and Zoltán Czibor.

Within a year an impressive team had been put together, benefiting from tactical innovations: the Magical Magyars were born. Between June 1950 and February 1956, Hungary suffered a solitary loss in 50 games – the dramatic, somewhat controversial FIFA World Cup final defeat of 1954 by West Germany.

They won 42. Between the Czechoslovakia reverse and July 1957, Hungary scored in a world-record 73 successive matches. Ferenc Puskás, Nándor Hidegkuti and Kocsis saw to that, even if politics meant foreign-based László Kubala and István Nyers were ineligible for selection.

The 'Match of the Century' in 1953
The 'Match of the Century' in 1953©Popperfoto/Getty Images

The baton handover
There were so many: the Magical Magyars redefined the footballing landscape. A 6-0 victory over holders Sweden in the 1952 Olympic semi-finals was an almighty statement, while a 3-0 win in Rome wrested the International European Cup title from Italy.

Yet perhaps the defining moment was the 'Match of the Century' at Wembley in 1953, when Hungary triumphed 6-3 to become the first team from outside the British Isles to beat England on home soil.

The game-changing philosophy
Sebes pioneered a radical variation of the WM formation, featuring a withdrawn centre-forward and wingers who could slot into midfield when required to create a flexible 2-3-3-2 lineup. Puskás later said: "When we attacked, everyone attacked, and in defence it was the same. We were the prototype for 'Total Football'."

Puskás (No10) celebrates at Wembley
Puskás (No10) celebrates at Wembley©Popperfoto/Getty Images

Communist sporting policy meant most players in the national squad not already playing for one of the top two sides – Budapest Honvéd FC and MTK Budapest – were duly transferred there, so national team-mates became club-mates. Hungary also played an enormous number of unofficial fixtures against teams from the countryside to hone their skills.

The tactical genius
Sebes, a former trade union organiser in Budapest and Paris, was undoubtedly the leader but at various times his back-room staff included Gyula Mándi, Márton Bukovi and perhaps most notably Béla Guttmann, who went on to lift two European Cups with SL Benfica. Tactical discussions were regular, lengthy and usually included input from captain Puskás and other world-class players at the coaches' disposal.

The star players
Ferenc Puskás: An inside-forward, Puskás was 16 when he made his top-flight debut and proceeded to plunder over 500 league goals for Honvéd and Real Madrid CF. His tally of 84 strikes in 85 internationals remains a European record and he had a glorious habit of finding the net when it mattered.

Bozsik: 'the best of all-time'
Bozsik: 'the best of all-time'©UEFA.com

József Bozsik: "People ask me who is the best of all time – Pelé, Maradona or Cruyff," Puskás said. "I always tell them it was Bozsik." A childhood friend of Puskás (the pair knew each other inside out), Bozsik's vision, accuracy and calming influence made the side tick. He resisted overtures from Europe's biggest clubs and remains Hungary's most-capped player.

Nándor Hidegkuti: A deep-lying centre-forward, Hidegkuti used to draw defenders out of position and create space for Puskás and Kocsis. The MTK man scored a few himself, his hat-trick at Wembley in 1953 three of 39 goals in 69 games for the Magyars.

Sándor Kocsis: Known as 'koczkás' (cube-like) because of his incredible heading prowess, Kocsis had a goalscoring record to rival Puskás's, notching 75 goals in just 68 matches. He was leading scorer at the 1954 World Cup with 11 strikes.

Grosics makes a save in 1954
Grosics makes a save in 1954©Getty Images

What they said
Gyula Grosics: "Sebes was very committed to socialist ideology. He made a political issue of every important match or competition, and he often talked about how the struggle between capitalism and socialism takes place on the football field just as it does anywhere else."

Sir Tom Finney: "It was race horses against cart horses [in 1953]. They were the greatest national side I played against, a wonderful team to watch with tactics we'd never seen before."

Sir Stanley Matthews: "They are the best team I ever faced. They were the best ever."

Brian Glanville, The Guardian: "The Hungarians played superb technical and tactical football, with Ferenc Puskás a dominating captain with a formidable left foot, and Sándor Kocsis, also known as 'Golden Head', a double spearhead."

Related Items