Hungary’s Chances At The Euros This Summer

Hungary’s Chances At The Euros This Summer

When your country’s national team makes it to a major international competition for the first time in 30 years, it can be a confusing mess of emotions. While you want to rejoice in the fact that your team has made it back to the international stage and just be happy to be there, you also want to see your countrymen “make it count” and advance beyond the first stage, making the world take notice in the process.

This is exactly how many Hungarians are feeling ahead of Euro 2016. While most consider Hungary to be one of the weakest sides in the tournament, a manageable group draw, some experienced strikers, and a roster of players mostly unknown outside of Hungary could make the Magic Magyars a team poised to shock the world by advancing out of the group stage.

Below we preview Hungary’s chances at the Euros this summer.

Recent Form

Although they didn’t have the strongest qualifying group (Northern Ireland, Romania, Finland, Faroe Islands, Greece), losing just three of 16 matches across all competitions is an impressive run for any European team. A 3-1 aggregate victory over Norway locked up Hungary’s spot in this June’s tournament, their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

 

Hungary[1]

 (Source: TheHimalayanTimes.com)

Thus far in 2016 they’ve played two tune-up matches in Budapest against respectable competition. In March, a late Balázs Dzsudzsák goal against fellow Euro 2016-side Croatia secured a 1-1 draw, and a draw was also the result against reigning African Cup of Nations Champions Ivory Coast. Hungary will play one more tune-up before the Euros, against World Champion Germany on June 4 in Gelsenkirchen.

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The Squad

Unlike say, Group F opponent Portugal, very few of Hungary’s national players play in the top European leagues. That said, their attack is still a formidable one that shouldn’t be underestimated, comprised of Bursaspor winger Balázs Dzsudzsák, former Chelsea and West Brom man Zoltan Gera, and Bratislava striker Tamás Priskin.

Aside from former Anderlecht centre back Roland Juhász, the Hungarian defense is considerably less-experienced. No possible backline candidate (besides Juhász) has more than 30 caps, and none of them play their club football outside Hungary or Poland. Backing up that novice group is goalkeeper Gábor Király, who despite playing for clubs such as Hertha BSC, Crystal Palace, and Fulham, has had trouble remaining pegged on as starter anywhere and recently turned 40.

 

Juhasz

(Source: Origo.hu)

 

On the touchline yelling orders for Hungary will be Bernd Storck. The longtime Borussia Dortmund defender has a small head coaching resume, but has proved himself to be no less effective. Prior to taking over the HNT in June 2015, Storck was the head man for a number of U21 and U19 teams (including at Olympiacos) and for two years was in charge of the Kazakhstan national team before being sacked after a poor start to Euro 2016 qualifying. So far, his managerial record for Hungary is 3W-3D-1L, including that victory over Norway in the Qualification Playoffs.

The Competition

In Group F, Hungary has drawn Portugal, Iceland, and Austria. After some tough group draws in recent Euro competitions, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal is the heavy favorite to win the group at 1/1 odds. To qualify, Fernando Santos’ squad won seven of eight qualifying matches, winning their group handily by seven points. Although Ronaldo didn’t score as much as expected during qualification, given his recent La Liga form (35 goals in 36 games) it’d be a surprise if he didn’t score at least a couple of times in the group stages alone.

Austria is predicted to be the second-place finisher out of the group by bookmakers (listed 2/1 to win the group). Das Team also won their qualification group handily, not losing a single match and finishing a full eight points ahead of second-place Russia. Recent friendlies against fellow Euro competitors Switzerland and Turkey have resulted in defeats, however.

Iceland was the surprise of the Euro Qualifying campaign, and their 5/1 odds of winning the group might be even better if they had drawn a group without a tournament favorite like Portugal. Playing in their first major international competition, Iceland finished second in a group containing the likes of the Czech Republic, Turkey, and the Netherlands. But while their squad contains a few Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A players, they are mostly made up of players vying in smaller European leagues. Anything beyond maybe one surprise upset win would be a shock.