Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
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Florian Albert outdazzles Brazil
When Florian Albert blasted three goals past Bulgaria in the 1962 World Cup, the world realized that a new star had been born that day. He ended up as joint topscorer of the tournament. Albert, a slim technician playing for Ferencvaros, had made his name but it was only a sign for even better things to come. The young man at that moment had only reached the age of 20.
Florian Albert was born in Hercegszanto, a small village near the former Yugoslavian border. When Florian was a young kid his parents moved to Budapest and the boy started playing for Ferencvaros at the age of 10. He would never quit the club in his entire life. Soon it became clear that Florian Albert wasn't just another football player. His talent seemed to be immense, his fluent moves around the pitch simply unique. People started talking about a natural successor to the great guns Puskas and Kocsis, who had the world at their feet in the 50's. And Florian week in week out showed spectators that he had the qualities of following in the footsteps of the Galopping Major and the Golden Head who had left the country following the Soviet invasion in 1956. Albert made his debut in the highest division at only 16. After only two games on the highest level he was called up for an even higher duty: the national team. Four years later he had convinced enough to be taken to the World Cup in Chile, with great personal success. But it wasn't until 1966 that he played his best match against Brazil.
Hungary-Brazil, played at Goodison Park in Liverpool, was a fantastic match, one of the best ever played in a World Cup. Brazil had won its first match 2-0 against Bulgaria, behind two free-kick goals scored by Pelé and Garrincha, but had not really shown the quality of play that people were used to after 1958 and 1962. Hungary had lost against Portugal 3-1, but they played a very good match and only lost because of two unbelievable blunders by goalkeeper Antal Szentmihalyi, allowing Augusto to score after only 2 minutes and 66 minutes. Brazil were without injured Pelé this time, replaced by promising Tostao. They had an old side, containing goalkeeper Gilmar (35), right back Djalma Santos (37) and stopper Bellini (36). Hungary replaced Szentmihalyi by Jozsef Gelei, and Imre Mathesz came in for Istvan Nagy. They had their famous frontline Bene, Albert, Farkas and Rakosi to count on. And they fulfilled all expectations this night.
Ferenc Bene opened the scoring after just 2 minutes by outplaying two Brazilian defenders and putting the ball into the near corner past helpless Gilmar: a great goal. But within the first 15 minutes the score was levelled when Tostao beat Gelei from a deflected free-kick: 1-1. Hungary impressed during 90 minutes. Bene was always dangerous and on the right spot, Rakosi working like a horse, Farkas brilliant. But the man in charge was Florian Albert. He wasn't really involved in any of the 3 goals scored by his team (though he produced a great pass that allowed Bene to send in a high cross that Farkas converted fantasticly for 2-1) but still was the big orchestrator of his team. He moved past Brazilians as if they were not there. He sent long passes to his mates inch perfect, he controlled every ball and set up quick and intelligent combinations. Pelé did not play this night, but reappeared in the name of Albert. Hungary won 3-1, were back in the World Cup. Albert's name shone. He really outdazzled Brazil, he was more Brazilian than the Brazilians themselves. Far more.
When Hungary left the pitch, they did so under a standing ovation from the 57,000 crowd. The biggest part of the applause fell to Florian Albert. In this form, playing his heart out, he was in the class of Pelé, Maradona, Cruijff and Zidane: masters of the ball, always moving around the whole pitch, directing the play and leading their team. Albert was a beautiful player. He was a kind of deeplying forward who could pick up the ball in his own half, squeeze past 4 or 5 men and simply putting the ball at the feet of his teammates or even flicking it past the goalkeeper. He was crowned European Footballer of the Year in 1967, one year after the World Cup. In 1966 Bobby Charlton's world title and Eusebio's 9 World Cup goals had proven to be just a little bit too much for Albert who ended up 5th in the annual ranking. In 1967 he left them all behind, certainly also a reward for his brilliant displays one year earlier.
In 1969 he fractured his leg severely in a World Cup qualifying match against Denmark and never reached his highest level again. He played in the national team until 1974, collecting 75 caps with 31 goals. Still he is not always mentioned when it comes to the greatest players in history. It is because of his rather small list of honours at the level of both club and country. It can never be because of his lack of qualities. Florian Albert was certainly one of the most elegant players the world had ever seen.
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