Ferenc Puskas is number 14 in 90min’s
Olympic champion. European Cup winner. The man with the third most international goals ever. Ferenc Puskas had a very very very very very very good career where he did very very very very very very many good things.
These are some of them! Not all of them, but some of them!
Scoring on Hungary Debut
Puskas’ club debut, at the tender age of 16, didn’t go too well – fairly anonymous in a 3-0 defeat. That’s not exceptional, most players don’t light it up in their first games, but he got a chance to turn things around just two years later on his international debut.
Smashed it, didn’t he? Scored the first goal in a 5-2 win over Austria, the first of a staggering (frankly nonsense) 84 strikes in 85 internationals. At 18 years old. NONSENSE.
Golden Boot of the World
It took a few seasons for the young Puskas to get up to speed in senior football, scoring 24 goals in 51 games over his first four seasons. He started to fly once he hit his late teens though, hitting 36 and 32 goals in 1945/46 and 1946/47 – before the 1947/48 season brought 50 goals in 31 games.
FIFTY. GOALS. IN 31 GAMES.
Lionel Messi has only had one 50-goal league season, and it took him 37 games. Cristiano Ronaldo has never done it. Luis Suarez? Not even close. Pele? Once, at a lower goals/games ratio.
No surprise that Puskas won the world Golden Boot award that season.
One of Puskas’ finest moments, but one which could so easily have been one of his biggest disappointments, the way the World Cup final was two years later.
Against a stubborn and tactically astute Yugoslavia side in the Olympic final, the Galloping General stepped up to take a 37th minute penalty with the scores level at 0-0. Weak with nerves, as he later described, he hit his shot weakly for
Match of the Century
On 25th November 1953, Ferenc Puskas’ Hungary team broke English football. They came to Wembley, the home of the game, where the English had never lost, and blew Walter Winterbottom’s team to pieces in the first half an hour.
Nándor Hidegkuti scored inside the first minute against an England team containing Sir Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen and Billy Wright. He scored a second to go with Puskas’ own brace, leaving England trailing 4-1 with almost 20 minutes to go until half time.
The match finished 6-3, and shook English football to its core. Everyone knew that Hungary were good – they were already Olympic champions – but the dominant win over the presumptive progenitors of the game put the stamp on a new era of international football. Until…
World Cup Golden Ball
Yeah, only lasted two years really. The Mighty Magyars, the Golden Team, made it the best part of four years unbeaten from 1950 until the 1954 World Cup final. 31 glorious games, and it all came crashing down against West Germany in a devastating 3-2 defeat in Bern.
Did it suck? Yeah, it sucked. A lot. But for Puskas it came with a small silver lining, and a vanishingly rare accolade, as he was awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball award.
That, despite playing in just three of Hungary’s five games; and only one in the knockout round after having his ankle fractured against West Germany in the group stage. That’s the measure of the player – that he could play half a tournament and still be recognised as its best performer.
First European Cup
He played full parts in the finals in 1962 and 1964, but was on the losing side against Bela Guttman’s Benfica and a Luis Suarez-inspired Inter.
Of the five European Cup finals his sides played in, Puskas was only on the pitch to win one of them.
He scored four goals in a 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
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90min’s ‘Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time’ can be found here.
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