|Major Honours||1952,1964 & 1968 Olympic Gold Medals, 1938 & 1954 FIFA World Cup Runners-Up, 1964 European Championship Third Place|
Hungary’s national football team was once one of the greatest in the world, but over time, they have fallen off the pace.
Still, the memories of Ferenc Puskas and co live on in the hearts of football supporters and Hungary's history has not been forgotten.
By qualifying for Euro 2020, Hungary gave themselves a chance of repeating the glories of their past heroes. Ahead of the tournament, theirs is a story which is worth telling, as there could hardly be a more pertinent example of the highs and lows which can be suffered by one footballing generation over the course of a few generations.
The early years
Hungary played their first international match against Austria on 12 October 1902, losing 5-0. They participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics, but had to seek donations in order to do so and were eliminated after a 7-0 defeat to England.
After the Olympics, Hungary played Russia twice in Moscow, winning the first match 9-0 and the second 12-0, which remains a joint-record for the national team to this day for the biggest winning margin in a match.
Bela Guttmann was one of the first players in the Hungarian national team who went on to become an icon, although that was as much due to his managerial career as anything else. He played for Hungary from 1921 to 1924.
Guttmann went on to be hugely successful as a manager for clubs including AC Milan and Benfica after the second World War, a remarkable achievement for a man who had been tortured in a forced labour Nazi camp during the war.
Hungary picked up a joint-record 13-1 win over France in Budapest in 1927, but they were not invited to the inaugural 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.
In 1934, they played in their first World Cup tournament in Italy, beating Egypt 4-2 in their first ever FIFA World Cup match. In the quarter-finals, Hungary lost 2-1 to arch-rivals Austria.
At the 1938 World Cup in France, Hungary won the opening match 6-0 against the Dutch East Indies. They then beat Switzerland 2-0 in the quarter-finals. After a 5-1 drubbing of Sweden in a semi-final encounter at the Parc des Princes, Hungary were beaten 4-2 by Italy in the final of the World Cup.
In the 1950s, football was revolutionised by a Hungarian team featuring the likes of strikers Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, attacking half-back Jozsef Bozsik and second striker Nandor Hidegkuti
Hungary beat Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final of the 1952 Summer Olympics to win the gold medal.
On 25 November 1953, Hungary ended England's 90-year unbeaten run on home soil, beating them 6-3 in a game dubbed "The Match of the Century".
Hungary's "Golden Team" led by Ferenc Puskas qualified for the final of the 1954 World Cup, losing 3-2 to West Germany after being 2-0 up in a match which has often subsequently been referred to "The Miracle of Bern".
Hungary then won the bronze medal at the 1960 Olympics and were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the 1962 World Cup.
Hungary's success continued as they picked up the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics with Puskas playing a starring role. Then, in 1967, Florian Albert of Ferencvaros was named European Footballer of the Year.
In the 1968 Olympics, Hungary defended their title, beating Bulgaria 4-1 and becoming the most successful team in Olympic football history.
Hungary finished fourth at Euro 1972 and would not appear at another European Championship until 44 years later, in 2016.
Defeats to Argentina, Italy and France saw them suffer an early exit from the 1978 World Cup and the cracks were beginning to show in a footballing nation which had undoubtedly stunned the world in the previous generation.
At their first group stage match of the 1982 World Cup, Hungary beat El Salvador 10-0, but they subsequently suffered a 4-1 defeat to Argentina and drew to Belgium, crashing out of the tournament.
In 1986, Hungary suffered a disastrous World Cup campaign. They began with a shocking 6-0 defeat to the Soviet Union in a match which some observers have claimed was the beginning of a crisis in Hungarian football.
Hungary momentarily recovered with a 2-0 win over Canada, with goals coming from Marton Esterhazy and Lajos Detari, but they lost 3-0 to Michel Platini's France in their last group game and crashed out of the tournament in Mexico. They have not appeared at a FIFA World Cup tournament since then.
Period in the wilderness and gradual rebuilding
In the whole of the 1990s, Hungary failed to qualify for any major tournaments apart from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. They dropped as low as 87th in the FIFA World Rankings in 1996.
Even Puskas was unable to save his country after being appointed as coach in 1993, as his reign lasted only four matches.
Hungary were close to qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, but were eliminated by FR Yugoslavia in a playoff.
Hungary missed out on all of the European Championship and World Cup tournaments in the 2000s as well despite efforts to appoint recognisable figures in coaching positions.
Bernd Storck took over as national team head coach in 2015, and he led them to qualification for their first European Championship title since 1972 as he qualified them for Euro 2016.
They were placed in a group with Iceland, Portugal and Austria and qualified for the round of 16 with a game to spare. However, Hungary were subsequently eliminated by Belgium in a crushing 4-0 defeat.
Hungary missed out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but won promotion to the B division of the UEFA Nations League after an impressive showing at the inaugural edition in 2018/19.
Hungary were able to qualify for Euro 2020 via the playoffs.
National team legends
Puskas remains the most culturally influential Hungarian national team legend and the Puskas award for the best goal of the year at the FIFA awards ceremony has been named in his honour.
Hungary have fierce and longstanding football rivalries with Romania and Austria, both of which they have had the better of historically.
Football is the most popular sport in Hungary, a country which has a population of just under 10million people.
- Jun 18, 2021
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