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The 1952 Olympic football tournament signalled the arrival (to Western Europeans at least) of the 'Golden Team'; the 'Magical Magyars': Hungary. Ferenc Puskás, the great Hungarian known as the 'Galloping Major' for his military title, said of the 1952 competition: "It was during the Olympics that our football first started to flow with real power." It was during the Games, too, that Stanley Rous of the Football Association, taken by the impression the Magyars were leaving on everyone present, first invited the Hungarians to play a friendly at Wembley the next year.


By the time of the competition the Hungarians had developed into one of the great sides in history. They had amassed an incomparable record, undefeated since May 14, 1950, but had been largely confined to the Eastern European Communist satellite states. When they had ventured outside their ken they had pulverised the Finns and Swedes. But these were mere glimpses. Their reputed supremacy was still a matter of some conjecture.

The competition also saw the first real mass entry from Eastern Europe. 6 nations from beyond the Iron Curtain were competing, all drawn to play in the preliminary round. The Soviet Union being drawn with Bulgaria and the Hungarians with Romania. Meanwhile the Scandinavian countries were exempted into the first round.


The Competition

There was nothing convincing about their win against the Romanians whom they were first drawn up against. Kocsis' goal in the second half enabled the Hungarians to record a narrow victory. In Lahtimarker, Great Britain had succumbed to Luxembourg in an eight goal encounter and elsewhere there were solid victories for the Italians and Brazilians (5-1 victors over the Dutch). In Helsinki the Yugoslavs were drawn up against the Indians. The Indians, for whatever reason, had dispensed with the need to wear boots; a decision that cost some players frost-bite, most of them bruising and contributed to the size of their 10-1 loss.

Hungary now made three changes when drawn against Italy and all was different, running out clear winners by 3 goals to nil. Of the rest it appeared that their likely challengers would be the Austrians who were defeating the Finns and the Swedes, managed by George Raynor; easy winners against Norway. Yugoslavia, meanwhile, were having a torrid time against Russia. 5-1 up with 15 minutes of their first round match to go, the Yugoslavs, understandably, put their feet up. Arthur Ellis, the match referee, recorded what happened next in his book 'The Final Whistle' (London, 1963): 'Russia forced the most honourable draw ever recorded! Bobrov, their captain, scored a magnificent hat-trick. After Russia had reduced the lead to 5-2, he, almost single-handed, took the score to 5-5, scoring his third in the last minute. For once, use of the word sensational was justified'. Although Bobrov's early goal in their replay presaged a miraculous recovery, Yugoslavia recovered sufficiently to put out their opponents easily in the second half. The Soviet side had been expected by Moscow to win the 1952 Games, and their defeat by Yugoslavia was not mentioned in the Soviet press until after Stalin's death the following year.

The Yugoslavs took care of the Danes and Germans to reach the final. Hungary, scoring freely, against the Turks then the Swedes, would join them. And they would easily beat Yugoslavia, silver-medallists for the second successive Games, 2-0 in the Helsinkimarker final with goals from Puskás and Zoltán Czibor. In the third place game Sweden would defeat the Olympic amateur team from Germany (:de:Deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft der Amateure) .

Preliminary round

First round



Bronze medal match

Final (Gold medal match)


Gold: Silver: Bronze:

Gyula Grosics
Jenő Dálnoki
Imre Kovács
László Budai
Ferenc Puskás
Zoltán Czibor
Lajos Csordás
Jenő Buzánszky
Gyula Lóránt
Mihály Lantos
József Bozsik
József Zakariás
Nándor Hidegkuti
Sándor Kocsis
Péter Palotás

Vladimir Beara
Branko Stanković
Tomislav Crnković
Zlatko Čajkovski
Ivan Horvat
Vujadin Boškov
Tihomir Ognjanov
Rajko Mitić
Bernard Vukas
Stjepan Bobek
Branko Zebec
Dušan Cvetković
Milorad Diskić
Ratko Čolić
Slavko Luštica
Zdravko Rajkov
Vladimir Čonč
Vladimir Firm

Karl Svensson
Lennart Samuelsson
Erik Nilsson
Holger Hansson
Bengt Gustavsson
Gösta Lennart Lindh
Sylve Bengtsson
Gösta Löfgren
Ingvar Rydell
Yngve Brodd
Gösta Sandberg
Olof Ahlund


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