Hungary line up for the 1954 World Cup Final
West Germany 3 v 2 Hungary, 1954 World Cup Final
Hungary's legendary Golden Team – also known as the Mighty Magyars – was the favorite to win the 1954 World Cup. In the five years prior to the final, it had remained unbeaten in 31 games (32 if counting a match against East Germany in 1952 that is not considered an official international). Hungary was also the reigning Olympic Champion and winner of the Central European International Cup in 1953. In 1953, Hungary had defeated England 6–3, becoming the first team outside the UK and Ireland to beat England on home soil, and had thrashed England 7–1 in Budapest just before the World Cup. Hungary did not have to play qualifiers for the 1954 World Cup, as opponent Poland withdrew for lack of prospects.
The players of the Hungarian national team were full-time professionals. Most played for the army club Budapest Honvéd FC, or for MTK Budapest FC, which, in the 1950s, was run by Hungary's secret police. Several members of the Golden Team were well known and highly regarded for their skills, including forwards Sándor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskás, attacking midfielder Nándor Hidegkuti, half-back József Bozsik, outside forward Zoltán Czibor and goalkeeper Gyula Grosics. Coach Gusztáv Sebes, who was also Hungary's Deputy Minister for Sport, and MTK coach Márton Bukovi are credited with developing further the rigid WM formation that was standard in European football in the early 1950s. Innovations included pulling Hidegkuti – who was nominally listed as centre-forward – back into midfield to create space for the inside forwards, Puskás and Kocsis; employing Bozsik as deep-lying playmaker, with the other half-back, József Zakariás, covering for Bozsik; requesting full-backs to assist in attack and wingers to assist in defence; and introducing flexible positional play that created confusion among opponents used to fixed roles and strict man-marking.
Puskás put his team ahead after only six minutes, when Bozsik intercepted a pass from Liebrich and found Kocsis with a through ball. Kocsis' blocked shot fell to Puskás, and Puskás scored from close range. Czibor added a second goal for Hungary a mere two minutes later, exploiting a misunderstanding in the German defense: Kohlmeyer secured a through ball from Bozsik but wrong-footed goalkeeper Toni Turek with a back pass, who failed to control the ball. Czibor sprinted in between and put the ball into the empty net.
West Germany came back quickly. In the 10th minute, Fritz Walter played Rahn free on the left wing, who crossed low and hard into the center. The ball went through the legs of right fullback Jenő Buzánszky, Zakariás lunged for the ball but could only deflect it, and forward Max Morlock converted from close range. Eight minutes later Morlock dribbled through the Hungarian defense, but center back Gyula Lóránt cleared for a corner. Fritz Walter played the corner short, Buzánszky cleared for another corner. The second corner kick came long and high, finding Rahn, who leveled the score.
Hungary took control after the equalizer and came to several good chances. In the 23rd minute, left fullback Mihály Lantos chipped the ball into the box, Kocsis headed on to Hidegkuti, but Hidegkuti's volley was saved spectacularly by Turek. Four minutes later, Hidegkuti fired another shot from the edge of the penalty box that hit the goal post. Only towards the end of the first half did West Germany come to more chances. In the 42nd minute, Fritz Walter found Schäfer in the penalty box, who dribbled past Lóránt and forced a save at full stretch from Grosics. The loose ball fell to Rahn, but Buzánszky cleared on the goal line.
Hungary came out attacking in the second half and created plentiful chances. Two minutes after the restart, Bozsik played Puskás free in the penalty box, but Puskás fired the ball straight at Turek. In the 54th minute, Kohlmeyer cleared twice on the goal line from Tóth, and three minutes later Kocsis headed a cross by Tóth against the cross bar. In the 67th minute, Turek saved a shot by Puskás with his foot, and in the 78th minute he left the goal line to block a through ball from Bozsik ahead of the onrushing Czibor. Hidegkuti picked up the loose ball but shot into the side netting. West Germany's first good chance of the second half came in the 72nd minute when Fritz Walter played Rahn free after a corner kick, and Rahn's powerful shot from the edge of the penalty box was saved by Grosics.
With six minutes left, Schäfer dispossessed Bozsik and played a high cross into the penalty box. Rahn picked up a short clearance, feinted a pass to center forward Ottmar Walter that wrong-footed the Hungarian defenders, moved into the penalty box, and drove the ball hard and low past Grosics for the third German goal. Two minutes later, Puskás appeared to have leveled the score once more when he converted a through ball from Tóth flicked on by Kocsis, but the attempt was ruled offside. In the final minute of the game, Czibor had another chance to equalize, but his shot from close range was again stopped by Turek.
The whistle soon thereafter ended not only the match, but also the Golden Team's unbeaten run. The greatest team in the world had been beaten in a superb final. Hungary 1954, the greatest team never to win the world cup!
The original black and white press photo that the colourised version is taken from.