Watershed

ungheriaIl 25 Novembre 1953 a Wembley, esattamente 60 anni fa, l’Inghilterra subì una sconfitta destinata a cambiare per sempre il calcio d’oltremanica .L’amichevole di lusso vedeva arrivare sotto le Twin Towers i campioni olimpici dell’Ungheria (oro a Helsinki 1952), mentre i padroni di casa, alla loro 282ma partita ufficiale, ancora non avevano mai perso in casa contro avversari non British. Gli inglesi, guidati da Walter Winterbottom, dopo la cocente delusione dei Mondiali del 1950, i primi cui si abbassarono a prendere parte, avevano iniziato le qualificazioni al torneo di Svizzera 1954 con due vittorie su Galles e Irlanda del Nord.Nelle precedenti 14 sfide casalinghe contro overseas opponents, i maestri avevano raccolti 11 vittorie e tre pareggi.  Quel 25 novembre Wembley era pieno, 100mila spettatori sicuri di vedere estendere quella striscia di imbattibilità. Agli ordini dell’arbitro olandese Horn queste le formazioni che scesero in campo.

England: Merrick (Birmingham), Ramsey (Tottenham), Eckersly (Blackburn), Wright (Wolves – c), Johnston (Blackpool), Dickinson (Portsmouth), Matthews (Blackpool), Taylor (Blackpool), Mortensen (Blackpool), Sewell (Sheffield W), Robb (Spurs).

Hungary: Grosics (Honved), Buzansky (Dorogi), Lantos (Voros Lobogo), Boszik (Honved), Lorant (Honved), Zakarias (Voros), Budai (Honved), Kocsis (Honved), Hidegkuti (Voros), Puskas (Honved – c), Czibor (Honved).

L’inghilterra presentava due giocatori al debutto, Taylor e Robb, aveva giocatori di otto squadre diverse contro l’approccio ungherese che vedeva sette giocatori dell’Honved. In avanti il duo che aveva incantato in finale di FA Cup pochi mesi prima, Matthews-Mortensen, dietro il primo giocatore al mondo a sorpassare le 100 presenze in nazionale, il capitano dei Wolves Billy Wright, aiutato sulla fascia da Alf Ramsey, qualcuno che di questa lezione fece tesoro nella successiva carriera di allenatore. Perchè di lezione si trattò, l’Ungheria era già in gol dopo neanche un minuto e dopo 56 erano sul 6-2. Gli inglesi were chasing shadows e più che Puskas, da qualcuno preso ingenuamente in giro per il suo fisico poco da atleta, fu Hidegkuti a creare il panico, giocando da falso attaccante e creando spazi per i suoi compagni, una cosa mai vista in una terra dove i numeri dall’uno all’undici avevano tutti dei ruoli ben precisi. Rivedere oggi quella partita, a parte pochi minuti andati persi nel secondo tempo, è una lezione di storia.

Per il commento sul 6-3 finale, lascio la parola a esperti e protagonisti. Tra questi ultimi, il capitano, che semplicemente loda gli avversari, e la stella, che invece punta l’indice in modo chiaro su alcuni compagni di squadra e sull’allenatore.

From: One hundred caps and all that (Billy Wright)

(talking about Walter Winterbottom)..I am quite sure that if the managers and players of this country had allowed themselves to be influenced by Walter seven or eight years ago much of the heart searching now taking place at League level would have not been necessary…The writing was on the wall when the Hungarians stripped us of our pride in 1953. Walter knew, and told me so at the time, that we would have to remould our whole attitude. “And that’s going to be quite a job, I don’t think we realise yet just how big…” The Hungarians beat us 6-3 at Wembley on November 25 1953, the first time the full might of England had been humbled on English soil since the birth of International football. But such was the brilliance of this Hungarian side, one of the finest teams of all time, that my main feeling now is one of supreme gratefulness for having played against them before they were ripped apart during the year of tragedy, 1956. The reputation of the Hungarians preceded their arrival in this country by many weeks. Their testimonials were about as impressive as they could be: reigning Olympic champions, undefeated in their own country since 1945 and unbeaten anywhere through 25 international played in every quarter of Europe in the four previous seasons…The press, with more sense of the dramatic than real proportion, built up the game as yet another “Match of the Century”, although, possibly on the strength of their draw with Sweden (in the previous game), were inclined to underestimate the Hungarians’ chances at Wembley. No one, after all, had ever beaten England on her own turf…We decided to place our faith in the retreating defence, which simply meant we held off the man in possession until exactly the right moment to challenge, covered tightly and kept a tight rein on opponents who were searching for space…Alas, even the best laid plans of mere mortals can go astray. In just ninety seconds Hungary were one ahead…the Hungarians proceeded to produce some of the finest, most brilliantly applied football it has ever been my privilege to see. The ball did precisely what they wanted. They mixed long passes with the sort with unbelievable accuracy and imagination. They were relentless, they were superb…

From: The way it was, my autobiography (Stanley Matthews)

…On a misty grey afternoon at Wembley, England were clinically and effectively put to the sword. It was our first ever defeat on home turf against Continental opposition but, more importantly, the game served as watershed in British football. How we approached and played the game and how we perceived ourselves, would never be the same again. Far from being the masters, on this day we were shown to be the pupils as the Hungarian team, who the press dubbed “The Magical Magyars” won a thrilling encounter by six goals to three. To my mind the result did not truly reflect their overall superiority on the day. Hungary were unfamiliar opposition but not an unknown quantity…I had seen in our 4-4 draw with the Rest of Europe that they possessed players of bewildering class. Yet we took Wembley that day with four changes to the forward line from our previous international and little in the way of a gameplan other than the selection of four Blackpool players which, we were told, “would provide some adhesion and co-ordination in our play”. In the dressing room there was no mention of how to counteract Hungary’s deep-lying centre-forward Nadnor Hidegkuti. Even at half time, after this sublimely gifted player had ravaged us, still nothing was said about him and no one was given the specific job of picking him up, a bad mistake in my opinion. The result gives an insight into our performance, we scored three but conceded six. We played well enough in attack, but we were woefully weak in defence and midfield. Our defensive shortcomings were exposed to the full and a few players who were favouries with selectors, I believe primarly because they said the right things before games and at the post match banquets, were seen no to possess sufficient quality to play at this level…England quite rightly could be proud of its past but what the Hungarians had shown us in no uncertain terms was that we should enjoy the past but look to the future. However lessons were not immediately learned from this game. In the return in Budapest in May England were butchered by seven goals to one…

Uno spettatore d’eccezione fu Bill Shankly. From: My Story

…The first time I saw two centre backs in play was when the Hungarians beat England 6-3 at Wembley. The Hungarians had a great side but, no disrespect to them, I don’t think they were up against a top class England team. The system beat England, those two centre-backs giving the full-backs the chance to go wide on the wing and mark men, and Hidegkuti, the deep lying centre forward. He could sway and twist and turn and beat men and, some people may laugh at this, was possibly a better centre-forward than Di Stefano…

Arthur Hopcraft, nel suo memorabile “The Football Man” fu molto meno tenero di Shanlky:

…The fifties relentlessly exposed the lie we had been cherishing as noble truth for so long. We could not play football better than any other country, after all. Far from knowing all there was to be known about the game we found that we had been left years behind by it…The dull training routines, aimed at deep chests and stamina and dogged ness, had done exactly what they were intended to do. Hungary, with a marvelous constellation of players grouped around Puskas and Hidegkuti, crushed us 6-3 on a November afternoon at Wembley in 1953 and in the following year stamped us into the ground with a 7-1 win in Budapest…

L’importanza di quella gara è stata sottolineata da moltissimi autori che nel tempo, parlando dell’evoluzione del calcio inglese, hanno trovato il tempo di analizzarla in ogni aspetto offrendo chiavi di lettura storiche e tecnico-tattiche. Nessuno meglio di Jonathan Wilson che ha dedicato un capitolo all’Ungheria di quegli anni in “Inverting the pyramid” e uno a quella partita in “Anatomy of England”. E l’enormità di quella sconfitta non solo è testimoniata dal fatto che chiunque sia stato in campo quel giorno, e abbia scritto un libro, ne abbia parlato diffusamente ma anche dal fatto che dopo 60 anni l’interesse e il fascino dell’Aranycsapat non accenna a diminuire. Peccato che un anno dopo, nella finale dei Mondiali, in circostanze sfortunate, lo squadrone magiaro si fece rimontare due gol dalla Germania Ovest in finale e perse 3-2. L’appuntamento con la storia non fu rimandato ma fu perso per sempre. Con la Rivoluzione Ungherese del 1956 e la diaspora dei giocatori la nazionale si sfaldò, non tornò mai più a certi livelli. Gli inglesi impararono la lezione e una dozzina di anni dopo, alla guida di uno dei terzini tormentato da Puskas e compagni in quella partita, alzarono la Coppa Rimet.

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