World Cup Wednesday!


When we look at the current Hungarian national team, it’s hard to imagine that they were once the team to be beaten. In his new weekly column, Levente Batki delves into Hungary’s showing at World Cups of old, starting with the 1930’s.


World Cup 1930

In 1930, the first World Cup was held in Uruguay. Only teams that were invited by FIFA were allowed to play. However, in my opinion, that is not totally true. The world of sports doesn’t like to include politics to its existence, so instead, you needed to have money to participate at that first world cup, that is why other European countries were there and Hungary wasn’t. Why do I think that? 1. Because it’s true. 2. Because the Hungarian, Fischer Mór was vice president of FIFA just a year before the talks of the World Cup were decided ,and Fischer was at the table, so it would be strange for him not to invite his own country.


World Cup 1934

A special collectors stamp issued in Hungary during the '34 World Cup

The second ever World Cup was hosted by Italy. Since the first World Cup was so successful, 32 countries wanted to participate, but only 16 teams were allowed to play. This lead to the introduction of preliminary rounds. Two of the strongest football countries in Europe, Austria and Hungary were drawn in the same premilinarly group, and both managed to qualify without playing each other in the expense of Bulgaria. In the first round, Hungary played Egypt, and won 4-2 with goals scored by Teleki, Toldi (2) , and Vincze. The quarterfinal was up next and Hungary were pitted against their great rivals Austria and were unfortunately dumped out, 2 -1. Had Hungary managed to beat Austria, eventual winners and hosts, Italy would’ve awaited in semi finals.


World Cup 1938

Hungarians look at this World Cup as the overachieving World Cup, or the ‘Miracle World Cup’. The third World Cup was played in France, where 16 teams qualified, although Austria withdrew due to political pressure from Germany (The World Cup was shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War). In the first round, Hungary played the Dutch East Indies ( presently Indonesia), and won 6 – 0, with goals by Kohut, Toldi, Sárosi (2) and Zsengellér (2) . Hungary coach,  Károly Dietz could not play the World’s best goalkeeper, Antal Szabó because of his stomach flu so József Hada deputised. The Quarterfinals produced the first real test for Hungary, but they still managed to overcome a good Switzerland side, 2- 0, with goals scored by Sárosi and Zsengellér at the end of each half. The third game was the semi-final, which started like a nightmare. Sweden were Hungary’s opponents and the Scandinavians opened the scoring with the fastest goal in World Cup history –  Nyberg scoring in the first minute. But by the end of the game, there was only one team that deserved to play Italy in the final, and that was Hungary, with the Magyars triumphing 5-1 with goals from, Zsengellér (3), Sas and Sárosi.


Meazza and Sárosi shake hands before the '38 World Cup final

The Final – Italy vs Hungary – June 19th, Paris

Hungary Starting XI: Antal Szabó  – Antal Szalai, Ferenc Sas ,György Sárosi (cpt ), György Szücs ,Gyula Lázár, Gyula Polgár, Gyula Zsengellér, Jenö Vincze, Pál Titkos, Sándor Bíró.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for the underdogs as Colaussi opened the scoring with only 6 minutes on the clock after some pretty slopping defending in the Magyar defence. However, Hungary weren’t to be disheartened in their first World Cup final and Titkos equalized in the 8th minute after the Italians failed to clear their area from a Hungarian onslaught. But in the 16th minute the Azzuri were back in front through Piola and this was the goal that really showed the difference in the two teams. Six different Hungarian players tried defending but were only embarrassed by the tricks shown in the Italian attack. In the 35th minute’s things got worse for Hungary as Colaussi added his second of the game to leave the score at 3-1 at half-time. Hungary did get back into the game, though, through a superb volley from Sárosi’s in the 70th minute. But just 12 minutes later Italy condemned Hungary to their first final defeat to retain the Jules Rimet trophy. It was a good effort from Hungary, and no-one had expected themto get this far, but the sure grit and skill shown by Hungary in the 1938 World Cup would lead to huge optimism in the coming years…

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