A comprehensive review of the 2013-14 Hungarian 1st division season.

Season Review 2013-14

A review of the season just finished in Hungary by Afanal Janos, starting off with the top league:

NBI

Debrecen

The Loki steamroller trundled on relentlessly to yet another title. Very consistent but with an occasional blip, when they play well they win, when they play badly they usually still win. No real stand-out players imo but good players throughout the side that don’t make many mistakes. If I had to name one as the key it would have to be Szakály Péter, very intelligent football-wise, he’s one of those players that you often don’t notice during a game but when he’s not on the pitch Debrecen sure know he isn’t there. Seeded for the 2nd round of Champions League qualifying, they have a good chance of making it through to the next stage although there are a couple of potential opponents they’ll want to avoid. After that, unless they get a really lucky draw, Loki will be fortunate to make the play-offs, never mind the group stages.

Győr

Forget they lost the title on goal difference it was sewn up weeks ago barring a miracle and even though Loki lost their last game, probably because it was all over, there needed to be a 14 goal swing on the last day for them to lose the title. Győri ETO have had a good season based on solid defence but with some good attacking flair and/or pace, primarily from Rudolf and Varga. Pátkai hurries about in midfield, breaking things up and the emergence of Kalmár is a big plus, if they can keep him. As far as the Europa League is concerned ETO will be unseeded in round 2, though there are some beatable seeded teams so they could go through. However, in round 3 they would be in much the same position as Loki in that a lot of luck would be needed to make any further progress.

Ferencváros

Failed to win their first four games after the winter break but turned things around brilliantly with nine wins on the bounce to clinch a Europa League spot. Gyömbér and Bešić are the two star men for me but they also have the veteran Brazilian Leonardo who can be devastating when fit. Add pace out wide from Jenner and Somalia and it all added up to a very good season with full credit to the new coach Thomas Doll. Fradi will be delighted to have Euro foci back but it may not last long, seeded in round 1 there are a couple of dangerous unseeded opponents lurking and as for round 2 if they get there, I don’t see them being able to beat any of the seeded teams.

Videoton

Vidi flatter to deceive, loads of quality in the squad and capable of beating anyone in the league on their day. On other days they can play as if they’ve never seen each other before. I think the sheer number of good players signed can make it more difficult to select a team that works together and for each other, which possibly wasn’t helped by having a (now departed) coach that was a bit of a loose cannon. Zé Luís was outstanding, but it looks as though he’s off somewhere else, Juhász is still far too good for this league though he can look disinterested, Sándor is twice the player we had at Újpest but was inconsistent. Equal top NBI scorer Nikolić will get goals pretty much anywhere but the sparing use of Kovács was baffling. All very odd and a fourth place finish was a major disappointment to them given the talent and other resources available to them.

Diósgyőr

Another side where there are a lot of good players which mostly doesn’t quite seem to work as a unit, although in their case this is down to a lack of quality elsewhere in the squad. Players like Elek, Kádár, Futács, Gosztonyi are good enough to be in a top of the table side, or not in NBI at all, but have too many inferior players alongside them. They did well to get to the Magyar Kupa final and I’m delighted that they won the Liga Kupa, it’s a bit of a Mickey Mouse competition, but their superb fans deserve something. Diósgyőr also come into the 1st round of Europa League qualifying where there are a few seeded teams they could possibly beat but I think it’s highly unlikely that they will make any progress at all.

Haladás

Hali looked to have a chance of qualifying for European football for most of the season but only one victory in their last six matches put paid to that. It was a bit of a surprise to see them quite that high in the league anyway though they do have some good defenders plus bright young talent like Radó András and Németh Márió. Halmosi Péter had a mixed season, having become more inconsistent and temperamental in the latter stage of his career, if he can focus more on his game and if they can keep hold of their young stars, Haladás could again be in the top six next season.

Pécs

The Munkás are a strange side, losing games they should win but beating many of the teams above them in the table. They had a poor start to the season but managed to turn things around fairly quickly and were comfortably able to finish in the top half of the table. A team without any real stars, just solid journeyman footballers, it will be interesting to see what impact the new coach, Véber György, has on them. A Lilák legend as a player he has so far pretty much failed as a coach everywhere he’s been in NBI but to be fair he’s had little budget to work with either. It looks as though they will lose top scorer Koller, in which case getting a new striker would be the number one priority.

MTK

Relegation candidates for most of the season, MTK put together a fine run in the latter stages, winning seven of their last eight matches, to haul themselves into mid-table. You should never write off a team with Kanta Józsi pulling the strings in midfield but there was a lot of mediocrity around him, in particular dodgy goalkeeping and sloppy defending. The signing of Vass Ádám was crucial, his defensive midfield play tightened things up considerably and the addition of Torghelle added some firepower. He’s a real Marmite player, love his heart in your team, hate him for his bullying in opposition but he sure makes his presence felt, either scoring or creating, despite his obvious lack of technical ability. Kálnoki-Kis is a bright young prospect at the back but can’t carry the load completely on his own, so this is where MTK really need to strengthen if they are to make any sort of challenge for top six next season.

Honvéd

Close to the top for much of the season without ever really looking likely to trouble the top three positions, Honvéd fell away dramatically to lose eight consecutive games until the meaningless final game at Debrecen. Having a sound keeper in Kemenes plus young talents like Vécsei and Vernes will provide a decent basis for the re-building that is vital to their chances. They really need to get the best out of their own youngsters like the Bobál brothers, Gergő in particular. The new coach, Pietro Vierchowod, has a tough task on his hands, and he’s hardly had a glittering coaching career so far, but he at least has decent playing pedigree and presumably contacts, unlike the previous Italian incumbent.

Kecskemét

Floating around all of the mid-table positions season long, it was KTE’s home form that kept them out of trouble. Continuing their recent trend of picking up other teams cast-offs they were never going to do much better than mid-table. Without some new blood next time, the downward trend of the past three seasons will continue and they could find themselves in relegation trouble.

Paks

After a really good start Paks hit a run of poor form right the way up to and past the winter break, to find themselves in a relegation spot by March. I never doubted that they had enough quality in the squad to escape and eventually, after a good draw against the champions elect, Paks picked up four straight wins to get out of trouble, after two months in the bottom two. Fiola, Heffler, Horváth, Kecskés and Kovács are all decent NBI players while Simon is a natural striker with good technical ability and although slow, he was good enough to be joint top scorer in the league. They will miss Éger on his retirement but have good defenders in the squad and should be able to make sure that they aren’t in trouble next season.

Pápa

Pápa also made a flying start which was never expected to continue, they soon settled into a safe mid-table position before dropping a little further down near the end. Their best players are at or near the veteran stage with Szűcs Lajos still a better than average keeper and Kenesei able to put in an effective cameo in attack; even Csizmadia is nearer the end rather than start of his career. Augmented by a few younger players deemed surplus to requirements at other clubs they are a solid, if not spectacular, outfit. Prospects for next season aren’t great unless they can get a couple of good additions to the squad and they may have a relegation fight on their hands.

Újpest

A traumatic season for Lilák. I can’t really comment on the financial issues as, according to the current owners, the alleged debts are untruths emanating from disgruntled former owners/employees. The courts will decide in the fullness of time. The club could have gone to the wall without pressure from the other big clubs (including our major rivals, thanks) and some political influence eventually persuading MLSz that a solution could be brokered. Enough of all that, what about the football. Apart from a few notable exceptions the squad is very young and cosmopolitan so it’s been a difficult job getting it all to gel together. Nebojša has done a really good job under difficult circumstances ie young players from all over the globe and loanees coming and going. There has been some excellent football played at times but far too inconsistently to get a run of good results, although it all came together in the Magyar Kupa when that ability coupled with team spirit saw us get through to the final and then win the club’s first trophy for 12 years. Best players this season have been the clever (but ageing) Kabát, Simon who has matured a lot and is harder to knock off the ball, Suljić has been a revelation on the other wing but needs to improve his end product a bit, Heris and Juanan were solid at centre back after a settling in period, Tshibuabua is a bit raw but always tries something and Dmitrović has been excellent in goal (although Balajcza was great in the cup matches.) The cup win should give the youngsters a lot of confidence but we still need a couple of players in plus more certainty with the loan system. All things considered there should be an improvement next season and a top six finish is not impossible, but there are other factors at play that may well have a major influence on that. Sorry this one’s longer than the rest but Lilák are my team ☺

Puskás Akadémia

The Felcsút side spent all season within touching distance of relegation but managed to maintain their status largely due to the poor teams below them. After their promotion they picked up some good NBI players like Hajduch, Polonkai, Czvitkovics, Lencse, Tischler, Tóth Balázs and Vaskó (some only on loan though) and it was probably their combined experience that saw them safe. I do expect them to make a little progress next season as some of the above will be staying on and they will make further signings due in part to the good facilities they have at the stadium and club.

Mezőkövesd

In the county leagues less than twenty years ago, Mezőkövesd gradually made their way up to NBI for last season, but it was a step too far. They too picked up some experienced NBI players but in their case they were mostly on a downward spiral age or fitness wise. The exception to this was the excellent Horváth Tomi in goal who tried his best to cope with what was happening in front of him and did it so well that he was called up for the national squad. I’m sure he won’t be staying in NBII and Mezőkövesd could well do an Eger and start going back down the leagues from where they came.

Kaposvár

Kaposvár have been a decent NBI team for ten years but during the last couple of seasons, after failing to hang on to their better players, they’ve been gradually slipping down the table. This time they were bottom right from a day one 7-1 mauling at Debrecen and stayed there all season. They started with little quality in the squad and weren’t able to add much later which was the basis for their troubles. The one really bright star is 17 years old Murai Márk but nobody really expects him to stay. However, if they can keep most of the rest of the squad together, with a good start they could make a challenge for promotion next season as overall they are better than the team that finished just above them.

Promotion/Relegation

So with Mezőkövesd and Kaposvár finishing in the bottom two places, barring any strange shenanigans by MLSz (which can never be ruled out!) we should have a couple of “new” teams back in NBI next season. Nyíregyháza won NBII comfortably with Dunaújváros in second place; the latter city will have a team in the top flight for the first time in more than ten years while champions Szpari make a welcome return after a four year absence.

The national team

Once again Hungary were in with a shout of qualifying for the finals of a major tournament, but the soft late goal conceded at home to Romania had already put a bit of a dent in World Cup 2014 hopes before season 12/13 had ended. An excellent draw in Turkey had kept the chance alive but a poor performance in Bucurest followed and the required miracle away to the Dutch was never going to happen. There has been some slight improvement in the past 2/3 years, getting 4 points off Turkey and doing the double over Estonia, including a very comfortable home win, are worthy of comment; but the best that can be said for the Koeman and Egervári periods is that we have at last stopped dropping silly points against the minnows. Now we look forward to a very competitive group for Euro 2016 qualification in which any one of four teams could win it. Once again, we are in with a chance of qualifying; Greece, Finland and Romania can all be beaten but alternatively we could also finish fourth. I am no fan of the new coach Pintér and his appointment was met with dismay by many but what is important is that we leave personal preferences on one side and all get behind the team. Hajrá Magyarok !!!

Afánál János