Hungary 4-0 Iceland – Extensive Review

Written by ente

Hungary recorded a sizeable win over Iceland on Wednesday, at the Puskás Ferenc Stadion; but what does the 4:0 score cover, in terms of how the Magyars played? Well, as it has become customary during this past year, since Sándor Egervári took over as manager and started re-building the team, the first half of the game did not look all too good, while the second one brought a Hungarian team that showed that they know how to play the game.

BEFORE THE GAME
One of the major challenges for Egervári in setting up the team was that many of the key players are injured. These include Lázár (Videoton), the right-back, which is already a thinly covered position; Gera (West Brom), the team captain and de facto leader, one of the creative engines on the team; Pintér (Zaragoza), a defensive midfielder who was supposed to be introduced as a full defender, in order to use him in the Sweden game instead of Roland Juhász (Anderlecht); Németh (Olympiakos), the young and talented striker who has been preparing, and has been prepared, to make up for the loss (due to a severe injury) of the best striker to emerge last year, Ádám Szalai; Szabics Imre (Sturm Graz), a recently introduced solution to the striker problem, but a very experienced player. All these players, most of whom received their injuries in the last weeks, needed to be replaced.

Besides this, the managerial team knew that they will not be able to count on the participation of a few regulars in the Sweden game because of the accumulation of yellow cards. Unfortunately for the Hungarians, the players affected by this situation are part of the section that needs the most work and improvement – the defense. Both Juhász and Vanczák – one the leader of the defense and a leader on the team, and the other a very experienced defender – will be unusable against Sweden, so playing them against Iceland might not have made much sense.

Given that Iceland was chosen specifically to prepare for the Sweden game on September 2, and more generally for the fall campaign, how should have Egervári set up his team, to respond to these demands, while at the same time continuing to work on forging a more united, smoother working, more experienced team? Given all the absences, the danger was that the team will look a bit like Hungary B, which would defeat the very purpose of this friendly match. Well, Egervári’s solution was to try out some new, younger players, who would supplant some absences; to use some known quantities in new positions, which would do the same; and to play some of the established players, in order to continue to improve the functioning together of the team.

FIRST HALF
The Hungarian team entered on the pitch with a brand new set-up in defense, and a slightly unnatural one in the other sections.  József Varga (Debrecen), who is a (defensive) midfielder by trade, was put on the right side of the defense. This was a new solution, and whether it would work out or not was truly up in the air. At the center of the defense, Lipták (Videoton) took his usual place, but was accompanied this time not by Juhász, but by a member of the bronze-winning U20 World Cup team who currently plays in Norway and who was making his debut in the adult squad, Korcsmár Zsolt (Brann Bergen). On the left side, Zsolt Laczkó, the Sampdoria player, took up again what has become his staple position on the team; a staple role, but not one in which he always deliver top performances, since we are talking about a player who likes to and can go up fast, building attacks on the left flank; in fact, he has been used quite often as a left-winger at Sampdoria.

This defensive setup showed its “newness” early on, demonstrating that the players were not yet connected instinctively with each other, or with their positions. In consequence, all too often the Icelanders profited by a lack of synchronization in the Hungarian defense to create potentially dangerous situations, whether by going up on the left (Varga’s side), or in the center. The problems on the right, especially, raised the question to whether Varga was indeed up to this new task. One bright light in the first half, however – and in fact during the whole game – was young Korcsmár’s secure, cool, reliable performance, which is to be especially appreciated from a player making his debut. Overall, it was the Icelandic players’ clumsiness that assured that the spaces they received were not used more efficiently. The same thing, however, will not remain without consequences in a game with a much more dangerous adversary, such as the Swedes.

In front of this defense, and moving toward the midfield, Egervári used Osasuna’s Vadócz and Videoton’s Elek, who have been playing on these positions for a significant time, but who are both natural defensive midfielders, rather than attacking ones (notwithstanding Elek’s aggressive and efficient work going forward, when needed).

This left the midfield proper somewhat uncovered, as Komán (Sampdoria) and Dzsudzsák (Anzhi Makhachkala) had to cover the midfield and connect the defense with the two players with a more forward role, namely Hajnal (Stuttgart) and Rudolf (Genoa). Furthermore, Hajnal was pushed (again) to a quasi-second striker position, which is certainly not the position in which he feels best, as shown in previous games when this formation has been tried. Rudolf was asked to play the role of a first striker, notwithstanding the fact that he is the first to state that the second-striker position suits him much better.

Therefore Overall, a setup that looked on paper as a 4:1:3:2 was in fact a sort of a 4:1:1:2:1:1. Plagued then as it was by the unnatural roles assumed by quite a few players, and by the new elements on the team, this setup created too many situations when there was too much space for the Icelanders. On the other hand, it also created a certain void in the Hungarian midfield, in terms of connecting the defense with the offense. To this one should also add that quite a few players arrived to this game without having had the opportunity to play many games at the club, while others (like Rudolf) were coming after exhausting pre-season training schedules.

As a consequence, the first half for the Hungarians was prudent, trying to find itself, to “understand” how itself was working. Many intended short passes were lost, and they were all too often replaced by attempted long balls forward that do not fit the style of the team, and that have proven indeed to be inefficient.

Fortunately for the Hungarians, the Icelandic team was not efficient enough in its attacks, while its defense was plagued by mistakes. In fact, it was from one of these basic mistakes in defense that the first Hungarian goal arrived, around the 32nd minute. Vladimir Koman snatched a bad pass from an Icelandic player and carried the ball towards the penalty area, and around the 19 meter imaginary line sent a strong, low shot, between the retreating defenders, into the right corner of the goal. Hungary was leading by virtue of the individual skill of its players – in this case of Koman, who strangely does not get to play all too much at his club nowadays.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned difficulties, and the as-of-yet rustiness of some of the players, the workforce of Elek, the dangerous dribbles of Rudolf, the passes and eye for the game of Koman, and the coordination skills and precise passes of Hajnal slowly but constantly elevated the game of the Hungarian team. Indeed, it was through a brilliant, quick combination of one-touch passes between Koman, Hajnal, and Rudolf that the second goal was scored, with just a couple of minutes to go from the first half. With that “in the bag”, the players could go to the changing rooms confidently knowing that despite the problems evidenced in the first half, the team had a comfortable lead and that their game was slowly improving.

SECOND HALF

During the break Egervári asked his boys to continue working, and to push for more; in order to pursue his match goals and mend some of the apparent problems, he also made a few changes, bringing in Juhász for Lipták (proving his appreciation of Korcsmár’s performance), and replacing a Defensive Midfielder (Vadócz) with a true first striker (Priskin, of Ipswich). With this, the team received some elements that served to balance the overall setup, (re)situating some of the key players in roles that fit them much more naturally. In the second half, therefore, the Hungarian team played in a 4:1:3:2 setup that was true both on paper and on the field.

The consequences of these changes were felt immediately and, combined with the players’ increased confidence in themselves, and comfortableness with each other, created a second half in which the Hungarians clearly took the leadership on the field, so that by the last 15 to 20 minutes they were clearly dominating the competition. On the other side, the Icelandic team was not helped by the many substitutions made by the manager, at a fast pace, which had the result of introducing further disarray into a young team which had been vulnerable from the beginning.

The Hungarians’ typical combinatory game of quick and short passes worked much better in the second half, from the very beginning – probably because there were simply more players in positions that felt more natural to them. Furthermore, some of the rustiness started to shake off, which was evidenced especially in Dzsudzsák’s game, which improved significantly from one half to the other. This was certainly an important development, as Balázs is one of the stars of the team, and clearly one of the most talented Hungarian players of the moment. His runs on the left side started being much more dangerous, while one of his shots (from the right side, this time) nearly ended up in goal, if the lower end of the left post, or the keeper’s hands (it is not clear) would not have deflected the ball outside. Rudolf, on the other hand, who had been most active in the first half, showed signs of tiredness, losing quite a few promising situations, keeping the ball for too long and attempting to dribble all too often.

With the entrance of Priskin (as first striker), Hajnal was able to retreat to his natural central-midfielder position – and it fit him very well. From there, he was able to use his skills as a game coordinator, and his refined passing abilities to create situations for the forward section. That is what he did at the third Hungarian goal, intercepting an Icelandic pass and telegraphing the ball on an empty left flank to Dzsudzsák, who carried it fast to the edge of the penalty area, striking a precise, powerful shot through the very small space between the tips of the goalkeeper’s fingers and the lower end of the left post. Hungary were now comfortable in a 3-0 lead.

How about the Hungarians’ defense? While continuing to exhibit moments of de-synchronization, the solid contribution of the experienced Juhász, Korcsmár’s mature performance, and the forceful interventions of the newly energized and determined Varga did change its overall performance, definitely to the better. The improvement of Varga’s performance was especially noticeable; many of his interventions were truly decisive. This is further proof of the strengths of this player, and why he is a true asset for the team: although not immensely technical, Varga is a determined, energetic player, a fighter who is very hard to remove from his feet; some have called him a bulldog, which he truly is. The choice of using him in defense, while surprising, turned out to be an inspired one, and will remain that if he continues to accumulate experience in that specific position, and if whoever is on the right wing will help him out in the defensive work, so that he is not put in danger of being by-passed easily, through a quick one-two.

A few additional substitutions were made by Egervári in the last 10-15 minutes of the game, when it was clear that the situation was under the Hungarians’ control. Koltai (Győr) replaced Hajnal (midfielder for midfielder), while Czvitkovics (Kortrijk) replaced Dzsudzsák for the last 5 minutes.

Although during the second half Hungary became the obvious dominant side on the field, the Hungarian keeper’s greatest save came also in this part of the game. But who is this keeper? Egervári’s choice for the game, Ádám Bogdán (Bolton), is one of the two goalkeepers dubbed to become the next stable keepers at national level (next to the very talented Gulácsi from Liverpool/Hull City). Indeed, this very young keeper has grown in the last season into a full-out second goalie at Bolton Wanderers, behind the legend that is Jussi Jääskeläinen (Finland) – and has been loaned out constantly, in order to increase his experience (and fortunately with very good results). While he did not have to make too many extraordinary saves during the game with Iceland, his interventions were solid, decisive, and courageous; as mentioned, in the second half his reflexes were called up indeed to deflect a volley shot from about 10 meters by Gudjohnsen’s shot that was going just below the bar.

The last two minutes brought the fourth Hungarian goal. A corner swung in from Czvitkovits on the left was headed on by Priskin from which it deflected towards the penalty point and Elek was the first to pounce and put the icing on the cake.

The game ended with a score of 4:0 that represented a truly respectable win for Hungary, yet without obscuring the obvious lapses in the defense and the ongoing, necessary work to smoothen the working together of the team. Given that Hungary came to this game lacking a good number of key players, that it introduced new players or new positions for old players, and that most of the players were not yet in top form, the end result is indeed very good, perhaps even exceeding the pre-game expectations. Furthermore, this strong result is also a testimony to the high inherent quality of many of the players in the Hungarian team, notwithstanding their situation at the club (which, for quite a few of them, is not what it should be). It also shows that the infusion of young players, many of whom come from previously successful youth national teams, has changed the psychology of the full national team – especially compared to the 2009-2010 season. Many of the young players have tasted success, and have learned to be confident in their abilities and in the future of the team.

This Hungarian side is at its best when its very strong midfield and relatively strong forward line works together to play a rapid passing game; there are many dangerous players in the forward section and in the midfield, as evidenced by the number of players who have scored goals for Hungary over the past year. The introduction of Korcsmár has the potential to stabilize a section that, until now, has been the most vulnerable, – the defense. There is more work to be done about the defense, certainly, and some teams will be less forgiving with mistakes made by the Hungarians, or with a setup on the field that undermines the team’s very backbone, the midfield but at the same time no denying the amount of talent available among the newer and the more established players of this national team.

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