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02 Aug 1952
Helsinki 1952

Puskás inspires Magical Magyars to football gold

Today, football enjoys such comprehensive and global coverage, with every aspect of the game scrutinised and analysed in detail, that it is hard to believe there was a time when a team could take the world by surprise. But that is exactly what happened in 1952, when Hungary’s “Golden Team” bamboozled opponents and dazzled the watching world.

The Soviet Union were hot favourites for gold, but their challenge fell apart in spectacular style. They were losing 5-1 against Yugoslavia before four late goals earned them a replay. In the second match, the Yugoslavs fell 1-0 behind before staging their own comeback to win the game 3-1. The much-vaunted Soviets went home empty-handed.

The Hungarians meanwhile had arrived in Helsinki with an air of quiet confidence. They boasted three great strengths – innovative tactics, the self-belief borne from a two-year unbeaten run, and the inimitable genius of Ferenc Puskás.

They duly proceeded to sweep past every obstacle in their path. A 3-0 win over Italy was followed by a 7-1 of Turkey in the quarter-finals. Their semi-final opponents Sweden – the defending champions – were dispatched in similar style, as the Hungarians racked up a 6-0 win.

In the final they found themselves up against Yugoslavia, who proved to be a much tougher proposition. A tense and keenly contested first half ended goalless. The deadlock was finally broken in the 70th minute, when Puskás struck the opening goal. Yugoslavia rallied as they went in search of an equaliser, and Hungary’s victory, and gold medal, was only assured in the closing moments, when Zoltán Czibor extended the lead to 2-0.

The achievements of “The Golden Team”, as they became known back home, led to long and joyous celebrations in Hungary. Elsewhere they acquired the moniker of “The Magical Magyars”, and have acquired mythical status. A year later, Puskas & Co beat England 6-3 at London’s Wembley Stadium, the spiritual home of football, in a victory that is still considered one of the most significant football internationals all time and which cemented the Magical Magyars place status as legends.

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