Wednesday, May 8, 2013

And he did – highly motivated Hungarian squad opposed Argentina. The hosts were under heavy pressure not only to win, but to show supremacy. Hungary was obviously fit and well adapted by now to the demands of total football, at least the defensive aspects of it – cover the whole field, pressure the opposition early, take the ball and start a counterattack. The Hungarian team was not intimidated at all and went fiercely into attack – and scored. Karoly Csapo, practically unknown striker and surprise starter scored in the 10th minute. Luque equalized five minutes later, but Hungary was at least at par with Argentina and fought to the end. Argentina managed to score a second goal 6 minutes before the end, but it was equal match. Perhaps not even equal, for Hungary was dangerous to the very end and – to many observers – the hosts had to be helped by the referee. Nyilasi was redcarded in the 88th minute and in the next the same happened to Torocsik. True, their were confrontations between the two teams. True, both Hungarians did not behave. True, two minutes to the end may be it did not matter anymore. But it was very suspicious expelling exactly the two most dangerous and influential Hungarian players and not a single Argentine, although the home team was not innocent at all – Passarella was yellow carded and his offense was hardly lesser than those of the Hungarian stars.

Hungary lost 1-2, but was never outplayed. It was an equal match, perhaps a tie would have been the just result of it. It certainly was for the Hungarians, who were convinced they were robed – in their view, the expulsion of Nyilasi and Torocsik was deliberate, unfair, and designed to help uncapable of winning Argentina. To a point, it was unfair – Nyilasi and Torocsik were to miss the next match and thus Hungary was severely handicapped, for the whole strength of the team depended on these two.
Sandor Pinter fighting for the ball with Daniel Bertoni. Bertoni, coming as a substitute, eventually scored the winning goal, but Hungary was the team deserving at least a tie.

And without the suspended stars Hungary was no match for high flying Italian team in the next fixture. Italy scored three goals by the 60th minute. Hungary saved grace in the 80th , when Andras Toth scored from a penalty, but it was over by now. Second loss – Italy clearly deserved to win, but the Hungarians were bitter: the outcome may have been different, if Nyilasi and Torocsik played. It was not only this particular match – Argentina won against France, thus Hungary was eliminated.
Dino Zoff cannot stop Andras Toth from scoring the penalty, but it was just a consolation goal.

The third match with France was meaningless. Nyilasi and Torocsik were back, but it did not matter. France fielded everybody who did not play so far, but Hungary used the regular starters. Fazekas was on the bench again – he played only 45 minutes against Italy in the tournament. Why he was not a starter is hard to tell now: most likely Baroti wanted to utilize best Nyilasi-Torocsik duo. Anyway, Hungary played well again, contrary to expectations. France was better though and won 3-1.

Zombori scored the sole Hungarian goal in the 40th minute.

Joszef Toth trying to stop French attack. France did not outplay Hungary, yet was the classier team. To a point, the last match established the reality: Hungary did not have really strong team. They were not outsiders, but still were a bit bellow the rest. The played bravely and probably deserved at least a point. In any case Hungary was not a disappointment. Were they treated unfairly and robed from a chance depends on standpoint. The most important thing was that Hungary did not give up after elimination – in the eyes of fans, it was great. Yet, unlike France, Hungary was not seen as potential force in the future.

Group 1 – final table.

1. Italy 3 0 0 6-2 6

2. Argentina 2 0 1 4-3 4

3. France 1 0 2 5-5 2

4. Hungary 0 0 3 3-8 0

Controversial, but entertaining and dramatic 'iron group'. No outsider here, susrpisingly delightful performances, a team clearly deserving to go ahead – France, and even a bit of restored justice. Argentina was favoured long before the beginning of the tournament: there was the scandal about the draw. Joao Havelange already made clear what FIFA will be under his rule – an economic enterprise. Italy instead of Holland was placed among the favourites in the top urn. And not only that, but according to Havelange Italy was to be – some draw! - in final group 4, playing in Mendoza. Why? Because Mendoza was populated largely by people with Italian roots and thus it was important financially to have Italy where supporters will buy tickets. Holland protested, of course, and restored its leading position. That is, leader of Group 4. Now Italy was unhappy and protested, greatly supported by Artemio Franchi, the UEFA President. And Italy was offered to chose the group they want to play. The Italians chose Group 1 – it appears weird to chose the group where the hosts play, but Italian officials most likely calculated the vast Italian presence in Argentina: on one hand, the team was to be supported. On the other – in the direct clash with Argentina, it may be not so nasty, thanks to divided loyalties of both Argentine fans and players. Were the Italian schemers right or wrong is irrelevant – the group was very tough, and difficult. Argentinian fans were hardly inclined to support Italy, especially when playing against Argentina. Same with the Argentine players. It was not scheming, but the surprisingly great football Italy performed, bringing them to the next stage. Three wins – a perfect record. And on top of it, Italy broke another scheme – Argentina was expected to win the group and to play in Buenos Aires in the next round. Now it was Italy to play in Buenos Aires, and Argentina – in front of smaller crowds in provincial Rosario. Some revenge, however small, for the injustices committed already to Hungary, France, the whole design of the finals.