009. Ferenc Puskas
One of the finest ever players in the game, Ferenc Puskas never was able to fulfill his true potential in a World Cup, despite being silver medalist in 1954. He began his career in 1943 in Kispest a suburb of Budapest, and at the age of 18 in 1945 he made his debut for Hungary against Austria in his country’s first post-war international match. Puskas played in the fabulous Hungary side that trashed England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953, the first team outside Britain to beat England at home.
Born in 1927, Puskas was an odd looking footballer. He was short, stocky, barrel-chested and overweight, couldn’t head and only used one foot. Known as “The Galloping Major”, a reference to the fact that he was an army officer playing for an army team, he had huge success in Hungarian football with Kispest Honved. He won four league championships with them before moving to Real Madrid. He would enjoy even more success in the Spanish capital. Partnering the great Alfredo di Stefano up front, they formed the most feared duo in international football. Puskas was top scorer four times in the Spanish league, helping his team to win six domestic trophies and three European Cups. In the 1960 European Cup final he hammered home four goals in Madrid’s 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Puskas and Hungary were unbeaten in four years of international football when they arrived in Switzerland to play in the World Cup in 1954. It looked like their record would remain after beating South Korea 9-0 and the strong Germans 8-3! Puskas missed the quarter- and semifinal through injury, but his teammates took care of the business beating Brazil 4-2 in the “Battle of Berne” where fighting seemed more interesting than football for the players. Defending champions Uruguay were beaten after extra-time and the stage was set for a final against West Germany.
Puskas insisted on playing in the final despite not being fully fit. The Galloping Major took over the captaincy and after only eight minutes Hungary were two goals up, with Puskas getting one of the goals. However, The Germans characteristically came back and won 3-2. It was a shock result and Hungary’s four year unbeaten record came to an end. The team broke up a couple of years later during the revolution in Hungary. Puskas later played four times for Spain in his time in Real Madrid but failed to score. For Hungary he played 84 times and scored a world record 83 goals! No player, not even Pelé, has scored that many goals for a national team.