On the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of Nandor Hidegkuti, a look back at one of the moments of glory of the career of the Hungarian, finalist of the 1954 World Cup with the Magic Magyars.
“We would often joke with our defenders: ‘Don’t worry if we take one goal; we will score two’. We were like that.” These words from Nandor Hidegkuti, a prominent member of the Magical Magyars, perfectly illustrate the philosophy of a selection resolutely turned towards the offensive. The goal pictured in the image above helped inflict Uruguay’s first ever FIFA World Cup ™ defeat. In all, the Hungarian striker and his partners hit the mark on 27 occasions during Suisse 1954. The record remains unmatched to this day, as does their impressive 5.4 goals per game average across the tournament.
Hidegkuti played a vital role in these statistics, but also and above all in the revolutionary training and style of play advocated by Hungary. When the Magyars had corrected England twice in a row before the big world meeting, the attacking midfielder of MTK had caused a sensation. “He shattered our defense into a thousand pieces,” Don Revie lamented.
The refocusing of Hidegkuti constitutes a turning point in the evolution of the Hungarian selection. Excellent on the right wing during the 1952 Olympic coronation, the native of Budapest easily converted into a playmaker role. His technique, his vision and his sense of placement allowed him to make the most of the immense qualities of Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and other Jozsef Bozsik, to the delight of those concerned.
“He was a huge player, who had a fabulous reading of the game,” Puskas said of him. “He was made for this role. Just in front of the midfielders, he chained the assists, disorganized the defenses and multiplied the calls to make the difference himself.”
The goal immortalized in this photo was precisely registered at the end of a call of this type. Totally forgotten by the opposing defense, Hidegkuti found himself alone at the far post to conclude with a plunging header. Under his leadership, Hungary edged Uruguay 4-2 in a thrilling semi-final to extend their unbeaten streak to 30 matches.
The rest, everyone knows. These Hungarians who were said to be invincible, who had not tasted defeat for more than four years, bit the dust (3-2) in the final against the FRG… A team they corrected 8-3 at the start of the competition.
The silver medal and a place in the typical tournament team will certainly not be enough to console Hidegkuti. Despite this cruel setback, this extraordinary Hungarian team has forever inscribed its name in golden letters in the history of world football.
Did you know ?
The showcase dedicated to the year 1954 at the FIFA World Football Museum contains a ticket that belonged to one of the lucky 45,000 who had the chance to see Hidegkuti’s magnificent head live during this famous semi-final .