GREATEST GAME EDITION
GREATEST GAME EDITION
Hungary 1-2 Cymru – 16 April 1975 – People's Stadium, Hungary
Cymru XI: Davies (GK), Page, Phillips, Roberts, Thomas, Griffiths, Mahoney, Reece (Smallman 82), James (Flynn 59), Toshack, Yorath (c).
Goals: Toshack (44), Mahoney (69).
Cymru were joined by Hungary, Austria and minnows Luxembourg in qualifying for EURO 1976, and a 2-1 defeat for Mike Smith's side in Vienna in the opening match offered little indication of what was to come for a talented generation of players. The defeat was the only blot on the Group 2 record for Cymru, as the side went on to win the remaining five games to top the final standings by three points and with it set up a two-legged quarter-final tie with Yugoslavia for a place at the four team finals that would be played in Zagreb and Belgrade.
Goals from Arfon Griffiths and John Toshack earned Cymru an impressive 2-0 win over Hungary in Cardiff in October 1974. A 5-0 win over Luxembourg followed in November, but it was the return match against Hungary in Budapest in April 1975 that would prove to be the defining moment of the campaign. No British nation had won at the People's Stadium in Hungary since 1909, while Hungary had only ever lost one competitive match at home going into the match. In comparison, Cymru had only won one away qualifier since the 1958 World Cup.
John Toshack missed a penalty in the opening half, but made amends as he converted a cross from Leighton James just before half-time. Brian Flynn would replace James on the hour mark, and turned provider for John Mahoney to score the second after 69 minutes. László Branikovits pulled a goal back for the home side with just under 15 minutes remaining, but a superb defensive display from Cymru and a fine individual performance from goalkeeper Dai Davies ensured that Cymru would claim a famous and unexpected victory against the group favourites.
Manager Mike Smith is widely-credited with introducing a more detailed, tactical approach to international football with Cymru, with an emphasis on scouting the opposition. But Smith was keen to highlight the contribution of captain Terry Yorath in his post-match analysis. “Tactically he solved the problems that the Hungarians presented,” said Smith. “And as a captain, he possesses this tremendous competitive instinct that drives on every other player.” However, Cymru would miss out on a place at the EURO 1976 finals as Yugoslavia claimed a 2-0 win in Zagreb before holding Smith's side to a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.