On 25 November 1953, an international football match was played between Hungary--then the world's number one ranked team, the Olympic champions and on a run of 24 unbeaten games, and England, that became known as the Match of the Century. Hungary won 6-3 and the result led to a review of the training and tactics used by the England team, and the subsequent adoption of continental practices at an international and club level in the English game.
The English national team had suffered just one defeat on home soil against foreign opposition, which had been in 1949 against the Republic of Ireland.
This had created a climate of complacency; the English Football Association (FA) simply assumed that as the originators of the game, English players were technically and physically superior to their foreign counterparts. In addition, coaching and tactical advances from abroad were ignored, with the English national side and the majority of clubs persisting with the outdated WM formation. England did have a national manager--Walter Winterbottom--but he had no prior managerial experience in professional football. His duties included not only managing the national team, but also developing the overall standard of coaching in England--a vast remit that indicated either naivety or a lack of interest on the part of the FA. Furthermore, Winterbottom did not pick the England squad: that remained with the FA's selection committee, who frequently displayed little or no consistency in their choice of player.
The British press referred to it as the "Match of the Century"--the originators of the game, against the finest team in the world at that time. It was played at Wembley in front of a crowd of 105,000.
"We completely underestimated the advances that Hungary had made, and not only tactically," Billy Wright said. "When we walked out at Wembley that afternoon, side by side with the visiting team, I looked down and noticed that the Hungarians had on these strange, lightweight boots, cut away like slippers under the ankle bone. I turned to big Stan Mortensen and said, 'We should be alright here, Stan, they haven't got the proper kit'."
The result was largely determined by tactical naivety from the English manager and players. When playing the WM formation, the defending centre half would traditionally mark the opposition's centre forward--usually whoever was wearing the number 9 shirt. In the game, England centre half Harry Johnston found himself marking Hidegkuti--who was effectively operating as a midfielder. This meant that Johnston was constantly drawn out of position, allowing the rest of the Hungarian team to exploit the space. England were also undone by the use of Kocsis and Puskás as strikers--as these two were wearing numbers 8 and 10 respectively, England thought they were inside forwards. This in turn led to uncertainty about who should mark them--and to further confuse the English players, the Hungarian forwards were continually swapping positions, confusing the inflexible English defence. The England team were largely drawn out of position because their defenders were marking whoever was wearing a particular number, instead of marking the player who was playing in a particular area.
Alf Ramsay was a member of the England team that day
Six months later, England were beaten 7-1 in the return fixture in Hungary.
Text summarised from Wikipedia, at Match_of_the_Century_(1953_England_v_Hungary_football_match)
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