Thrashing it out

Following Wales' 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Holland, Cris Freddi looks back at the heaviest defeats suffered by the British and Irish in Europe

The Welsh might take a few crumbs from knowing a) they weren’t alone in conceding seven in a game against the Europeans, and b) the English were the first. After the historic 6-3 home defeat by Hungary in 1953, Billy Wright and boys must have travelled to Budapest in some trepidation, though you wouldn’t have known it from listening to Stanley Rous, who said simply “We will win”.

We didn’t. We lost 7-1 despite two alleged secret weapons up front: Peter Harris and Bedford Jezzard, who’d won one cap between them. Whatever they were supposed to do to Lorant & co remained a secret. Anyway it wasn’t the attack which needed strengthening; Czibor gave the tall full back Ron Staniforth a classic blistered tongue, Puskás and Kocsis scored two apiece, even the hefty full back Lantos smashed in a free-kick. Ivor Broadis’ goal was apparently greeted with warm applause, but the crowd could afford some generosity by then: England were 6-0 down. Harris and Jackie Sewell weren’t capped again.

This was England’s heaviest ever defeat, though they almost matched it against the 1958 Yugoslavs, who hit the bar, missed “a glaring chance” and had two goals disallowed before winning 5-0!

Scotland’s first ever defeat by a foreign team forced British football to start taking notice of the Austrian Wunderteam – but the 5-0 scoreline in 1931 was deceptive to say the least: Scotland fielded seven new caps, including the entire forward line, and were reduced to nine fit men after injuries to Danny Liddle and Colin McNab. But it was still a significant day, the continentals beating the Scots at their own classical short-passing game, brought to Vienna by Jimmy Hogan, and showing the Brits that taking your second string to Europe wasn’t enough any more.

Northern Ireland’s worst defeats on the continent weren’t a patch on their regular drubbings by the other Home countries last century (they conceded ten goals in a game five times); in fact, they’ve only twice let in five, against West Germany in 1977, when George Best’s indian summer wasn’t enough against the likes of Vogts, Kaltz and Fischer – and back in 1958, when Blanchflower, Bingham, McParland and Jimmy McIlroy were outgunned 6-2 by one of the mighty forward lines – Di Stéfano, Kubala, Suarez, Gento and outside-right Justo Tejada who scored four.

The Republic of Ireland were once the leakiest of the lot, losing by six goals to Poland, Austria (twice) Spain and Czechoslovakia, the latter winning 7-1 in the qualifiers on their way to reaching the 1962 World Cup Finals. Two Austrians scored hat-tricks: Thomas Parits in 1971 and Adolf Huber within four minutes in 1952, when the Irish missed enough chances to have won: Arthur Fitzsimons unmarked from close range, Reg Ryan after Tommy Eglington had gone round the keeper, Eglington when he missed the ball in front of an open goal. Ireland dropped keeper Fred Kiernan for good and replaced him with new cap Jimmy O’Neill in Madrid. Result: two 6-0 defeats in a row. Neville Southall’s going to have to go a bit to beat that.

From WSC 119 January 1997. What was happening this month