With the passing away of Ferenc Puskás, the last of the Mighty Magyars is gone. There is only one way that Puskás, also affectionately called the Galloping Major could be described: Prolific. He scored 357 goals in 354 appearances for the Hungarian club Budapest Honved, and 156 goals in 180 appearances for Real Madrid. He was equally prolific for the Hungarian national team, scoring 84 goals in 85 caps.
Hungary. That is a name infrequently mentioned in the football world nowadays. Hungary has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986 and the European championship since 1972. It’s FIFA ranking is 76. In Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic is ranked 8, Ukraine 13, and Croatia 19.
This was not always so. In the 1950’s Hungary was the team to beat. It holds the record for the longest winning streak, 33. They won the gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki games and were the runners up to Germany in the 1954 World Cup. In between, they beat an English team that boasted Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Billy Wright and Alf Ramsey at Wembley, 6-3. They became the first non-UK team to beat them at Wembey.
The Hungarian team earned the sobriquet The Golden team, The Magical Magyars, The Magnificent Magyars, and The Mighty Magyars. Those days saw players of the caliber of Ferenc Puskás, Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, József Bozsik and Gyula Grosics, many who played for the club Budapest Honved.
The Hungarian revolution in 1956 ended the era of the most successful team in football history. The revolution began as players from Honved were returning from a match against Atletico Bilbao. Players like Ferenc Puskás, Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis decided to stay on in Western Europe and never played for Hungary again.
Puskás joined Real Madrid in 1956 and played for legendary Real Madrid teams that included Alfredo Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, and Jose Santamaria. He took up Spanish citizenship and played for the Spanish national team. Czibor and Kocsis joined CF Barcelona in 1958, Czibor played 4 years before moving to their rivals, RCD Espanol, Kocsis, stayed on and retired from football in 1965.
Hungary continued to achieve some success for another two decades by fielding good teams and brilliant players like Lajos Tichy, Ferenc Bene, Florian Albert, László Kiss, and László Fazekas. They reached the quarterfinals of the 1962 and 1966 World Cup and returned to the World Cup in 1978, 1982 and 1986 making first round exits.