This week in history: The England football team beaten by Hungary

25 November 2014

By Pan Macmillan

On 25 November 1953, a packed crowd gathered at Wembley stadium to see the England football team play a visiting side from Hungary. Although the Hungarian team were the Olympic champions and were unbeaten in three years, England expected a comfortable victory. The home side contained such giants as Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Billy Wright, and the future manager Alf Ramsey, and England had never lost to an overseas team at Wembley. Elsewhere, Everest had just been conquered and a new queen crowned, ushering in a supposedly ‘New Elizabethan age’ for Britain.

Hungary, meanwhile, was a communist country from Eastern Europe whose team, in the opinion of one England player, ‘didn’t even have the proper kit.’ But scarcely a minute after kick off, Hungary had scored and ‘the Mighty Magyars’ went on to comprehensively outplay the English side. The final score was 6-3 to the Hungarians, but as the Guardian newspaper reported, this figure ‘did the visitors less than justice… No one present’, it argued, ‘would have been surprised had they scored ten.’ It was a crushing blow to the national side and the nation as a whole, and one only compounded a few months later when England lost again to Hungary, this time suffering a 7-1 drubbing in Budapest.

Flags © Nicolas Raymond /