Match of the Century (1953 England v Hungary football match)

On 25 November 1953, an international football match was played between Hungary—then the world's number one ranked team, the Olympic champions and on a run of 24 unbeaten games, and England, that became known as the Match of the Century. Hungary won 6–3; the English were shown to be technically and tactically inferior to the Hungarian side, known as the Golden Team, in every way. The result led to a review of the antiquated training and tactics used by the England team, and the subsequent adoption of continental practices at an international and club level in the English game.

The English national team had suffered just one defeat on home soil against foreign opposition, which had been in 1949 against the Republic of Ireland.

This had created a climate of complacency; the English Football Association (FA) simply assumed that as the originators of the game, English players were technically and physically superior to their foreign counterparts. In addition, coaching and tactical advances from abroad were ignored, with the English national side and the majority of clubs persisting with the outdated WM formation. England did have a national manager—Walter Winterbottom—but he had no prior managerial experience in professional football. His duties included not only managing the national team, but also developing the overall standard of coaching in England—a vast remit that indicated either naivety or a lack of interest on the part of the FA. Furthermore, Winterbottom did not pick the England squad: that remained with the FA's selection committee, who frequently displayed little or no consistency in their choice of player.

The Hungary national team was a team creation of the Deputy Sports Minister Gusztáv Sebes in an endeavour to further sporting excellence in communist Hungary. Innovations included a precursor to "Total Football" several years ahead of the Dutch and the introduction of a deep-lying centre-forward position, occupied by Nándor Hidegkuti. The Hungarians had seen the virtue of creating fitness regimes as well as a club-like policy at an international level to give impetus to innumerable practice sessions; in addition, most of their players played for the State-sponsored Army team Honvéd, which ensured that each member of the team was familiar with the style and strengths of each of his teammates.

The Hungarian team was unbeaten since May 1950, and had won the football gold medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.

The British press referred to it as the "Match of the Century"—the originators of the game, against the finest team in the world at that time.

This page was last edited on 20 June 2018, at 21:31 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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