Hungary head into their second consecutive European Championship this summer looking for an improvement on their performance in 2016.
The Magyars ended a 30-year wait for an international tournament appearance, dating back to the 1986 World Cup, by qualifying for France 2016 via the playoffs and despite being an outsider, they were touted as a dangerous side by many.
Hungary then finished first in Group F, above the scourge of England, Iceland, and eventual winners Portugal, despite winning just once, drawing the other two games to remain unbeaten. But they ultimately came unstuck in the round-of-16, suffering a late collapse to lose 4-0 against Belgium.
With two World Cup final appearances, Hungary are international footballing royalty of years gone by. Can they bring a return of the golden years this summer?
The best players Hungary with bring to Euro 2020
Goalkeeper: Peter Gulacsi
Denes Dibusz often plays second fiddle between the sticks but when fit and available, Peter Gulacsi is the undisputed No.1 for his nation. An immense shot-stopper and incredibly proactive off his line, Gulacsi has been a rock for RB Leipzig over the past six years.
As vice-captain, he will also play a key role both on and off the pitch for Hungary, fighting back some of the world’s best forwards during the group stages to give them a fighting chance on the pitch and using his leadership skills to keep everyone focused off it.
Defender: Willi Orban
You don’t get to play almost 200 games for RB Leipzig — or for the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhuttl — as a defender if you’re not technically proficient. Willi Orban is just that. The 28-year-old offers ultimate composure and stability in possession and will play a vital role in ensuring Hungary see their fair share of the ball against their illustrious Group F opponents.
Orban is also extremely dominant in the air, making him the perfect match for the likes of Olivier Giroud and Cristiano Ronaldo, from set-pieces at least. His performances in front of Gulacsi could hold the key to Hungary’s chances this summer.
Midfielder: Dominik Szoboszlai
The RB Leipzig connection is strong in this Hungary squad, completed by creative midfielder, Dominik Szoboszlai. The 20-year-old only joined Leipzig from sister club RB Salzburg in January for a reported €20m, making him the most expensive Hungarian player of all time, thanks to a record of 26 goals and 35 assists in 83 games for the Austrian champions, including nine goals and 11 assists across all competitions this season alone.
A tricky dribbler, clinical finisher and precision passer, Szoboszlai has a brilliantly varied skillset and given he scored the 92nd-minute winner against Iceland to get Hungary here — just four minutes after Loic Nego equalised — he’s already a hero. Can he add to his growing profile here?
Forward: Adam Szalai
Adam Szalai has struggled to make a mark at club level since joining Mainz at the start of last season, scoring just one Bundesliga goal so far. But at international level, he remains an important part of Hungary’s plans. The 33-year-old netted in back-to-back games during the recent break as Hungary drew 3-3 with Poland and beat San Marino 3-0, taking his tally to 23 goals in 70 caps.
For someone with such a sparse goal record, it’ll come as little surprise that Szalai is best known now for his ability to link the midfield and attack, using his strength and aerial presence to hold the ball up and wait for support, or flick it on to runners in behind the opposition defence. The veteran forward might well be the crucial piece to free up Szoboszlai, while his ability from set-pieces has the potential to sting the likes of Germany and France in the group stages.
The manager: Marco Rossi
After a year in Slovakia with Dunajska Streda, Marco Rossi took the Hungary job in June 2018 and has thus far enjoyed a positive reign in charge. The Italian — who played in Germany and Mexico as well as his homeland during his time as a defender — has lost just nine games with Hungary so far, while he’s also guided his side to back-to-back Uefa Nations League promotions since 2018, meaning they can look forward to rubbing shoulders with the likes of England, Belgium and France in Division A next time around.
Bernd Storck was the man in charge of Hungary for 2016, when they reached the round-of-16. Considering the group they’ve been drawn into, Rossi will perhaps be forgiven if he’s unable to match that return, though he does have Hungary trending in the right direction.
Rossi has mostly stuck with 3-4-1-2 and 3-5-2 systems during his time in charge of Hungary. Gulacsi is the undisputed No.1 whenever fit and Orban will anchor the defence. With the defensive protection of Adam Nagy and three centre-backs, Szoboszloi is offered something of a free-roll, able to drift horizontally to link up with his wing-backs and create overloads on the wings, while getting close to Szalai for any knock-downs. Zsolt Kalmar will also make supporting runs from the midfield.
The most important thing for Hungary is being brave and trusting in the centre-backs and Nagy to provide sufficient defensive cover against strong opposition, thus allowing the wing-backs to push forward and provide support in the attack. If they fold and drop into a deep defensive block, Rossi’s side may be stuck without an outlet to get the ball forward, and there’s only so long they can hold out against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Timo Werner in the group stages.
The form guide
Euro 2020 qualifying (including play-offs): WWLWLLWWWL
Hungary had to take an unconventional route to Euro 2020, finishing fourth behind Croatia, Wales and Slovakia and finishing only above Azerbaijan — who picked up just one point — in Group E, winning four and losing four of their eight games. However, they went into a playoff series thanks to their strong Uefa Nations League performance, beating Bulgaria (3-1) and Iceland (2-1) to seal their place at this summer’s showpiece.
Recent fixtures: WWDWDWDWWLW
More recently, the Hungarians have been in fine form, losing just one of their 10 matches since September 2020, winning six and drawing the other three, including those aforementioned playoff victories to book their place at Euro 2020.
Hungary’s Euro 2020 odds
With odds of 500/1 to win the tournament according to Sky Bet, Hungary are second only to North Macedonia as this summer’s outsiders. That said, given some of the quality their squad brings to the tournament, this would seem somewhat unfair at first glance.
However, the reason for Hungary’s high odds becomes painfully clear once you take a look at who accompanies them in Group F, with world champions France, European and Nations League holders Portugal and perennial tournament powerhouses Germany making up the rest of the quartet. Unsurprisingly, Hungary are 33/1 outsiders to win the group, while they’re priced at 11/2 to simply qualify.