Historical Football #12 – El Salvador’s Humiliation

With Brazil having been thrashed and humiliated in front of their own fans by Germany, it seems fitting to return to Historical Football with a look back at the World Cup’s biggest thrashing – poor El Salvador’s 10-1 humiliation at the hands of Hungary at Spain 1982…

If there was ever a way to turn yourself from a national hero to a national villain in ninety short minutes then getting humiliated at a World Cup is a sure fire way to do it. Just ask El Salvador’s 1982 World Cup squad. 90 minutes was all it took for them to become figures of ridicule in their own country, unable to achieve anything without the stigma of their humiliation follow them around. Yet, it all looked so promising in the beginning…

The early 80s was a tough time to be in El Salvador. A brutal Civil War saw a lot of people murdered by both the military government and guerilla forces on a daily basis as they fought for control of the country. Football, though, proved to be an escape for the country and the national side brought everyone together as they managed to progress through qualifying to make it to Spain. However, this would be the high point of their journey as the reality of the finals soon set in very quickly.

Immediately they were given the unenviable task of trying to get anything from a group containing Hungary, beaten European finalists of 1980 Belgium and the defending World champions Argentina (with a certain Diego Maradona). They were not expected to do well and their preparations certainly did not help in any way either. While rivals Honduras arrived in Spain a month before the tournament to acclimatise, El Salvador were playing a friendly against Gremio of Brazil just over a week before their opener. Their journey to Spain took the best part of three days, their accommodation was shoddy and they had to ask the Hungarians for some balls to train with because their allocation from FIFA had been stolen. Add on the fact that the El Salvador FA had incredibly decided to register only a 20 man squad and morale was not at its highest point in the camp. Hopes were high for their debut though.

After watching a tape of the Hungarians, the El Salvadorians were convinced they could attack their more experienced opponents and catch them by surprise. Their plan was solid enough and for long periods of the first half at the Nuevo Estadio in Elche it worked. The problem was that the Hungarians were superior technically and picked off their naive opponents when they poured men forward. It also did not help that Hungary captain Tibor Nyilasi was allowed to run free at a corner and head home after just three minutes. Their greater quality told when a simple pass took out the entire El Salvador midfield on the halfway line and Gabor Poloskei ran through on goal (after easily hurdling the most desperate of all desperate lunges) to fire past poor Luis Mora in the El Salvador goal.

Hungary's Imre Garaba
Another desperate El Salvador lunge is evaded

It was not all El Salvador naivety however as Laszlo Fazekas was allowed time to turn, run and smash a long range effort into the top corner showing the vast difference in quality between the two sides. The only positive for El Salvador was that they were only three down at half time and had threatened when they got the ball to Jorge Gonzalez (more commonly known as Magico Gonzalez) whose ability gave the Hungarian defenders nightmares. They had a few attempts on goal and remained positive that the game was still a contest. The second half would very quickly change that.

Every time El Salvador lost possession, Hungary swept forward and it was this that led to the fourth, and ultimately killer, goal. Full back Jozsef Toth’s low cross was cut out by a defender but Toth reacted to quickest to squeeze it home. It was uncharted waters for the Salvadorians who had never conceded more than three in a game. Diaz Arevalo who missed the game through injury stated in an interview with FourFourTwo that the fourth goal was when, “we really started losing our nerves”.

It became five on 54 minutes when Fazekas was allowed time on the left wing to come inside and fire a low shot past Mora at his near post. Still, El Salvador poured forward trying to get something from the game. And, after 64 minutes, they got their goal. Gonzalez tricked his way into the area and pulled it back to Norberto Huezo who seemed to panic but managed to stab it to Luis Ramirez Zapata who passed it in and in the process became a precursor to Marco Tardelli.

Hungary coach Kalman Meszoly had reportedly told his players at half time to show no mercy as it was the World Cup and after the El Salvador goal they certainly put his words into practice. Laszlo Kiss, a substitute, was left free at a corner and fired in for number six while fellow sub Lazar Szentes tapped in to make it seven. Kiss’ second goal was a lovely chipped effort from just inside the area before he completed a record breaking hat-trick by firing through a crowd of defenders to become the first substitute to score a World Cup hat-trick as well as the quickest hat-trick in the tournament history. Nyilasi rounded the scoring off with seven minutes left with another header and the humiliation was complete.

El Salvador shut up shop for their next two games which were not as heavy defeats to Belgium and Argentina. The negative vibe continued around the camp as they fell out with hotel staff, fought with Argentina on the pitch and played that game without any official documents as the official in charge forgot them. They were eliminated and regarded as embarrassments to El Salvador.

Mauricio Rodriguez, the coach, never managed another side and left football after the tournament while the majority of the squad were treated as pariahs in the country. Magico Gonzalez remained in Spain where he enjoyed success with Cadiz despite becoming notorious for his partying lifestyle. The members of that squad are still viewed with contempt by the Salvadorian public, proof that ninety minutes is all it takes to become a villain for a lifetime.

All the goals are in the video below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phd8aYb-HGk]

That wraps up another edition of Historical Football. Stay tuned for more from The Long Ball coming soon.


Further Reading


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