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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 13:40 GMT
Hungary's football masterclass
Hungarian captain Ferenc Puskas scored twice at Wembley
Hungarian captain Ferenc Puskas scored twice at Wembley

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of a game in which Hungary's national football team changed the game forever.

On 25 November 1953 Hungary played England at Wembley and, although they were Olympic champions and undefeated in three years, no one game them a chance.

This was, after all, an England side that had never lost on home soil to an overseas team.

Walter Winterbottom's side were made up of players with world-wide reputations, like Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright and Stan Mortensen.

The Hungarians, on the otherhand, were unknown in England.

As Wright pointed out to Mortensen as they took to the field that day, the Hungarians did not even have the proper kit.

But the pre-match ball juggling of captain Ferenc Puskas - a sight fans and players had never seen before in this country - was an indication of what was to come.

We thought we were the masters, they were the pupils - it was absolutely the other way"
Sir Bobby Robson

England were not merely beaten, but absolutely outclassed.

The visitors brought a new vision of the game to Wembley. Their 4-2-4 system was based on first-time passing by players who ran hardest when they were nowhere near the ball.

Hungary waltzed to a 6-3 victory, with Puskas scoring two goals.

The defeat caused a complete re-think of the English game and had a lasting-effect on all those who witnessed it.

One face in the crowd on that grey November afternoon was a young Sir Bobby Robson.

"We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before," Robson told BBC One's Football Focus.

"None of these players meant anything to us. We didn't know about Puskas. All these fantastic players, they were men from Mars as far as we were concerned.

"They were coming to England, England had never been beaten at Wembley - this would be a 3-0, 4-0 maybe even 5-0 demolition of a small country who were just coming into European football.

England's WM formation was exposed by the Hungarians
England's WM formation was exposed by the Hungarians

"They called Puskas the 'Galloping Major' because he was in the army - how could this guy serving for the Hungarian army come to Wembley and rifle us to defeat?

"But the way they played, their technical brilliance and expertise - our WM formation was kyboshed in 90 minutes of football.

"The game had a profound effect, not just on myself but on all of us."

The defeat started a revolution in English football. After 90 years of supremacy, England had been forced to concede that another country could play the game better than they could.

Over the next few years Winterbottom, who was also director of coaching for the Football Association, slowly introduced what he had learned from the Hungarians into English football.

The face of the game in this country developed into the 4-4-2 formation used by teams all over the world today.

"That one game alone changed our thinking," says Robson.

"We thought we would demolish this team - England at Wembley, we are the masters, they are the pupils. It was absolutely the other way."

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