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Hungary face a mammoth task to get past France, Portugal and Germany
Hungary face a mammoth task to get past France, Portugal and Germany

It is an unenviable task facing Hungary as they find themselves in Euro 2020's group of death alongside Germany, world champions France and Euro 2016 winners Portugal. 

The Hungarians and head coach Marco Rossi must be wondering what they have done to end up in Group F with such fierce opposition.

And their luck has shown little sign of improving, with star man Dominik Szoboszlai withdrawing from the squad due to injury.

Background

A powerhouse in their day, it has been some time since Hungary were a dominant force in Europe — this is only the fourth time they have reached the European Championship finals.

Hungary squeezed through the qualifying stage for Euro 2016 after finishing as one of the best third-placed teams, beating Norway in the play-offs.

Having reached the finals in France they put on a better show, winning their group before losing to Belgium in the Round of 16. 

Prior to that, they had not qualified since 1972, reaching the semi-finals on that occasion and finishing third in 1964.

Without RB Leipzig playmaker Szoboszlai, Hungary’s already limited goal threat will be almost entirely carried by 33-year-old captain Adam Szalai.

Just getting through the tournament with their pride intact will represent a moral victory for the Magyars.

How they qualified

Hungary finished behind Croatia, Slovakia and Wales in Group E but still reached the play-offs, thanks to an impressive 2018-19 Nations League performance.

Four wins and four draws in qualifying paints a picture of inconsistency for Rossi’s side, who were unable to build on a statement 2-1 win over 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.

Luckily for them, Hungary were able to perform under pressure in the play-offs. After overcoming Bulgaria in the Path A semi-final, they dramatically beat Iceland 2-1 with goals in the final two minutes from Loic Nego and Szoboszlai.

The line-up

Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi could be a busy man at Euro 2020
Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi could be a busy man at Euro 2020

Set up in a fairly conservative 5-3-2 shape, do not expect too much ambition from the Magyars — particularly given their Group F opponents.

At the back, Leipzig stopper Peter Gulacsi will marshal a three-man central defensive unit comprised of club-mate Willi Orban and Fenerbahce’s Attila Szalai, as well as one of Attila Fiola or Adam Lang.

Bristol City midfielder Adam Nagy is Hungary’s lynchpin alongside Laszlo Kleinheisler, with Tamas Cseri and David Siger competing to join them in the engine room.

Up front, it is captain Szalai plus one. At opposite ends of the experience spectrum, 33-year-old Nemanja Nikolic and 24-year-old Roland Sallai seem the most likely candidates.

Predicted line-up: Gulasci; Siger, Lovrencsics, Lang, Orban, At Szalai; Kleinheisler, Nagy, Cseri; Ad Szalai, Sallai.

Star man: Adam Szalai

With Szoboszlai ruled out, a heavy goalscoring burden rests on the shoulders of Mainz striker Szalai.

He is the only member of the squad to have registered double figures for his country and is by some distance their most experienced player.

The 6ft 3in striker has scored goals wherever he has played throughout his career, which started at Hungarian giants Honved and has taken him to Real Madrid Castilla, Mainz (twice), Schalke, Hannover and Hoffenheim.

Powerful in the air but still nimble on the ground, Szalai retired from international duty in August 2014, only to reverse that decision a month later when Pal Dardai was appointed coach.

Adam Szalai will be the focal point of Hungary's attack
Adam Szalai will be the focal point of Hungary's attack

Up-and-comer: Attila Szalai

Likely to partner Orban at centre-half, Szalai will have the unenviable task of stopping Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Co. 

The 23-year-old moved to Fenerbahce in January having spent the last 18 months with Cypriot side Apollon Limassol.

At 6ft 4in, the defender is an imposing aerial presence but is also confident and progressive with the ball at his feet.

Szalai started his career with Rapid Wien before a two-year spell with Hungarian side Mezokovesdi SE.

He has scored three times since moving to Turkey — all from set-pieces — and will be a threat from dead-ball situations at the Euros.

The boss: Marco Rossi

Appointed in June 2018, Italian coach Rossi replaced Georges Leekens in his first international role as a coach.

A defender during his playing days, Rossi turned out for 11 clubs in Italy, Germany and Mexico but spent the bulk of his career with Brescia.

After retiring in 2000, he took his first coaching role with AC Lumezzane four years later and has since led Pro Patria, Spezia, Scafatese, Cavese, Honved and Slovakian First League side Dunajska Streda.

Rossi tested positive for coronavirus the day before Hungary’s crucial Euro 2020 play-off against Iceland, forcing him to quarantine ahead of the showdown at the Puskas Arena, one of the host venues for this summer’s tournament.

All information correct as of midday, June 4, 2021

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HungaryEuropean Championship

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