Magyars Emerging From International Wilderness

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Hungary are heading for their second straight European Championships but with a tough draw and injury doubts over their star player, may struggle to make it out of Group F.

Marco Rossi

If England supporters are still dining out on the 1966 World Cup, Hungary fans have to go back even further to bask in their national team’s glory days.

Runners-up at the 1938 and 1954 World Cups, Hungary also won three Olympic football gold medals in the 1950s and 60s.

Their brilliant Ferenc Puskas-inspired side, nicknamed the Mighty Magyars, thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953 and 7-1 in Budapest a year later. However, Hungarian football has been in the doldrums for the past three decades.

Signs of Resurgence

Things are finally looking up, though. They qualified for their first major tournament in 30 years at Euro 2016, finishing top of a group that included eventual winners Portugal before losing 4-0 to Belgium in the last 16.

Hungary finished fourth out of five in Euro 2020 qualifying Group E but their Nations League results earned them a playoff semi-final against Bulgaria which they won 3-1.

Their dream of another Finals appearance looked to be over when they trailed Iceland 1-0 with just two minutes of normal time remaining in the playoff final, only for late goals from Loic Nego and Dominik Szoboszlai to fire them to a dramatic victory.

Brutal Draw Could Hamper Hungary

Hungary didn’t rest on their laurels after November’s playoff triumph as a 1-1 draw with Serbia and 2-0 home win over Turkey secured their promotion to League A of the Nations League.

Despite reaching the top tier of that competition, Marco Rossi’s side are 250/1 shots in the Euro 2020 outright market, above only Finland and North Macedonia in the betting.

Those odds are more a reflection of Hungary’s brutal group-stage draw than they are of their ability or potential.

World champions France? Check. European champions Portugal? Check. Global footballing powerhouses Germany? Yes, they’re in there too.

Group F is a staggeringly tough heat with Les Bleus and Die Mannschaft 5/4 joint-favourites to top the group and Cristiano Ronaldo’s star-studded Selecao 9/2

Hungary are 40/1 to win the section, making them the biggest-priced outsiders in any group at the Euros, and their hopes of pulling off a colossal giant-killing may well be hampered by the absence of their 20-year-old star Szoboszlai.

Golden Boy Struggling to Be Fit for Finals

Even before his superb winner in the playoff final against Iceland, Szoboszlai was carrying the nation’s hopes on his young shoulders.

Having gained a reputation for spectacular goals at RB Salzburg, he scored a brilliant free-kick in September’s 1-0 Nations League away win over Turkey and moved to high-flying Bundesliga club RB Leipzig in January.

However, an adductor injury means he is still waiting for his first appearance for Leipzig and reports suggest he may be ruled out for the season, making him a major doubt for the Euros.

Without Szoboszlai, Hungary are short of attacking quality, with four of their eight goals in qualifying coming against bottom side Azerbaijan.

Leipzig centre-back Willi Orban was their joint-top scorer in qualifying with two goals in eight games and much will depend on the form and fitness of 33-year-old Mainz striker Adam Szalai.

Another Leipzig player, goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, is likely to be kept busy at the Euros but few other members of Hungary’s squad are regulars in major European leagues.

Bristol City’s Adam Nagy is an important figure in central midfield in Rossi’s preferred 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation but stepping up from the Championship to face France, Germany and Portugal will be a huge challenge.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.

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