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 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?
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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: Adam Nagy
Looking to provide the link between Hungary’s defence and attack will be Bristol City midfielder Adam Nagy, whose future importance to the team has grown following some devastating injury news.
Despite being just 25, Nagy is one of the most experienced players in the Hungary squad with 46 caps. In fact, only captain Adam Szalai (70) has won more than Nagy among those going to Euro 2020. That experience will be key for Hungary as they try to navigate a horrible group alongside France, Germany and Portugal. Nagy didn’t have the best of seasons with Bristol City, as the club struggled, but he is at his best with Hungary especially in front of their own fans.
Forward: Adam Szalai
Adam Szalai has struggled to make a mark at club level since re-joining Mainz at the start of last season, scoring just two Bundesliga goals. 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 the midfield, while his ability from set-pieces has the potential to sting the likes of Germany and France in the group stages.
Dominik Szoboszlai ruled out of Euro 2020
It was the news Hungary fans dreaded, but Dominik Szoboszlai has been ruled out of Euro 2020 due to injury.
The 20-year-old midfielder joined RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg in the January transfer window, but is yet to represent his new club due to injury. Despite that, he was named in Hungary’s provisional squad for Euro 2020, with the hopes that he would recover in time to play some part in the competition.
However, one day before the final 26-man squads had to be announced, it was revealed that Szoboszlai had withdrawn from the Hungary set up due the same injury that had ruled him out of Bundesliga action. Now, Szoboszlai’s attention will turn to using this summer as a chance to fully recover ahead of finally making his RB Leipzig debut next season.
Dominik was not at the right level of fitness to compete at the tournament following his long injury break,
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) June 1, 2021
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. The absence of Szoboszlai will bring a more conservative midfield, but Zsolt Kalmar can make supporting runs for the forwards.
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.
Five years on from their previous major tournament appearance, Hungary are a new-look team, with three of their 11 starters against Belgium at Euro 2016 having retired. Roland Luhasz, Gabor Kiraly and Zoltan Gera have all called time on their playing career, with the latter two now in their 40s – a key example of how ageing that Hungary squad was.
The likes of Balazs Dzsudzsak and Ricard Guzmics are nearing the end of their careers, but Adam Nagy, Adam Lang, Adam Szalai and Gergo Lovrencsics are still going strong, preparing for Euro 2020.
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 250/1 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 9/2 to simply qualify.