Hungary will be wearing their famous cherry red shirts. That allows England to run out in their first-choice white, all laid out nicely here by the kitman. Note the rainbow captain’s armband that will be worn by Harry Kane to celebrate Pride Month.
Gareth Southgate talks to new England rights holder Channel 4. After suffering some excruciating forced banter regarding his famous Russia 2018 waistcoat and various subsequent touchline fashion choices – including two questions about today’s navy suit, both met with slightly confused pregnant pauses – the very patient and polite England boss eventually gets to talk about the match itself: “We’re looking forward to the game. It’s a very different sort of atmosphere, it’s been very nice having all the schoolkids in. Both the previous Nations League events – one very successful, one not so successful – we’ve learned both times so much from the matches. You’ve got to test yourself against the best teams. These next four games in particular, have very different tests and tactical challenges. We need to find out about one or two players. We tried to pick a team with some lads that have motivation to prove something, but also some experience around them so they can perform at their best.”
Hungary may have some glorious history against England … but they’ve had nothing to boast about since a 2-1 win at the 1962 World Cup in Chile. The two countries have played each other 15 times since then, with England winning on 12 occasions and the other three matches ending in draws. If the Three Lions roar again tonight, Gareth Southgate will become the first England manager to win consecutive matches in Hungary. Walter Winterbottom’s head would be spinning at the very thought. Here’s how this fixture unfolded the last time it was played …
… and here’s what happened the last time the teams met.
You’ll have heard there’s been a bit of a ticketing brouhaha. The Hungarian FA have exploited some loopholes in Uefa regulations, inviting 36,000 fans to a game nominally being played behind closed doors as a punishment for discriminatory behaviour. Nick Ames has the details …
… though attendance fiascos are nothing new when it comes to this fixture. Back in 1954, over 800,000 applications were made for tickets, with the Népstadion’s capacity just 80,000. The Manchester Guardian picks up the story:
Some factories, mines and building sites with good production results were allotted a few paid tickets to be drawn for manual workers. As this left the intellectuals in the cold, one of them wrote to the Sports Minister:
‘While warmly approving the concession to Stakhanovites, I suggest that some encouragement be given to brain-workers who are keen on football. Though unable to prove that the game is a passion of mine, I herewith display notable cerebral activity.
‘The crowd at big matches at the leading Budapest stadium is invariably stated to be 80,000. This news has for years gone unheeded. If you directed that, at the forthcoming match between Hungary and England, the crowd should number 80,001, the news would be pronted all over the world, resulting in excellent propaganda for our country. I need hardly say that I would willingly be the 80,001st spectator, and that I am at your entire disposal for collecting the ticket.’
The attendance was later reported to be 92,000. The Guardian didn’t record whether this high-handed chancer was one of the extra 12,000.
Jarrod Bowen and James Justin make their England debuts in a side showing eight changes from the friendly win over Ivory Coast in March. Harry Kane and Mason Mount return, Jordan Pickford pulls the gloves back on, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Conor Coady come into the defence. Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham retain their spots in midfield, as does Harry Maguire at the back.
November 25 1953, and Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Zoltán Czibor, József Bozsik, Gyula Grosics et al rock up to Wembley, where they set about putting English football firmly in its place. You’d have thought the 6-3 humiliation visited upon Walter Winterbottom’s team would have led to a period of reflection, regrouping and realignment … but no. England blithely put the thrashing down to a bad day at the office, and few lessons were learned. Off to the Népstadion they went, six months later, to play the return fixture on May 23 1954 with pretty much exactly the same tactical plan. Here’s how that panned out, then, in the words of the pre-MBM-era Manchester Guardian.
GOAL! Hungary 1-0 England (Lantos 8): “Lantos took a free kick ten yards outside the penalty area and with a drive which had to be seen to be believed, put the ball high into the corner of the net. It crashed in like a bullet.”
GOAL! Hungary 2-0 England (Puskás 22): “Continued pressure by the faster and more dangerous Hungarians brought a second goal when Puskás netted after the ball rebounded from a defender. At this stage the home players were now doing almost as they liked.”
GOAL! Hungary 3-0 England (Kocsis 31): “After several dangerous moves on both flanks, Hungary became three up when Kocsis scored from close range. The English defence was all sixes and sevens against the precise passing and beautiful positional play of the Hungarians.”
GOAL! Hungary 4-0 England (Koscis 56): “Then came a brilliant spell during which Hungary scored three goals in four minutes. The man who did all the damage was Czibor, the tricky, speedy outside-left, though he did not get one of them. Czibor first of all flicked a neat pass to Kocsis and the inside-right scored after a lovely run on the left …”
GOAL! Hungary 5-0 England (Tóth 60): “… Czibor then put Tóth through for a fifth …”
GOAL! Hungary 6-0 England (Hidegkuti 62): “… and finally Hidegkuti sent in a terrific shot just inside the upright from a perfect Czibor pass from his outside left.”
GOAL! Hungary 6-1 England (Broadis 69): “England did not give up the battle and Broadis got a lovely goal from the edge of the area with a hard shot wide of the keeper.”
GOAL! Hungary 7-1 England (Puskás 73): “Hungary’s captain broke away in the centre and shot past Merrick after disposing of the rest of the English defence.”
FULL TIME: Hungary 7-1 England. Oh Walter! The result stands as England’s biggest-ever defeat, although: Hungary’s golden team somehow conspired to lose that year’s World Cup final; England went on to win the World Cup a dozen years later; the English are firm favourites to come away with all three points from Budapest tonight. But some stains never wash away, and good luck avoiding talk of 1954 whenever this fixture is played during the next few centuries. It’s just the way things have to be. Kick off at Puskás Aréna Park is at 5pm BST. It’s on!