Forza Hungary!

A couple of days ago The Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) appointed Marco Rossi as the new Head coach of Hungary, replacing Georges Leekens at the helm. The move comes after a string of poor performances under the Belgian’s tenure, leading to widespread dissatisfaction amongst fans and players alike.

Georges Leekens was appointed in the autumn of 2017, replacing Euro 2016 head coach Bernd Storck, whose contract was terminated as a result of losing to Andorra and falling at the wrong end of a 5-2 defeat against Switzerland. Leekens – who, prior to his appointment, had been virtually unheard of in Hungary – was brought in to rebuild the national side from scratch for future success. He was widely credited for laying the foundations of the current Belgian national side, although a lack of success and the constant flow of talent from Belgium could put this into question.

During his 4 games in charge Hungary lost convincingly against Kazakhstan, Scotland and Australia, and managed to scrape an undeserved draw versus Belarus. He did not introduce young talent into the team; in fact the average age of the squad went up since Euro 2016, including calling up 33 year old Kitchee (Hong Kong league) player Krisztián Vadócz and 32 year old Predrag Bošnjak, the latter who spent the majority of his career in mid-table Hungarian sides and has not played since the embarrassing 2-1 loss against Northern Ireland under Attila Pintér back in 2014. The matches not only lacked quality, but players appeared to be unmotivated, and unlike in previous years, they did not show passion nor motivation on the pitch either. He had several months to come up with a new squad and failed to do so.

Marco Rossi’s appointment drew widespread acclaim from players, journalists and the public alike. However, the logistics of the appointment are questionable; Leekens claimed that he was not notified about the MLSZ’s decision to terminate his contract and he only heard about Marco Rossi’s appointment in the media. He is set to return to Hungary next week to discuss his future.

The MLSZ’s decision to make Rossi head coach appears to be the right one. Having coached in Hungary between 2012 and 2017 and since 2017 in Dunaszerdahely (Dunajská Streda) – the Hungarian minority’s team in Slovakia – he has a good understanding of Hungarian football culture and its mentality. He will be able to express himself to players better and be more understanding towards them.

Rossi is also a builder. However, unlike Leekens, he has a proven track record in the Hungary football environment, taking mid-table Budapest Honvéd to league glory in 2017 by slowly improving the team year by year. Despite a small interval in his Honvéd career – when in May 2014 he resigned, but was rehired later on in the next season when the club were struggling – he has shown dedication to the job and had a great relationship with the fans. He has also demonstrated his ability to have an instant impact, taking qualifying Dunaszerdahely to Europa League qualifiers for the first time in 24 years in a single season. An instant impact at Hungary is necessary more than ever as they prepare to qualify themselves for Euro 2020 on the back of a poor run of performances they have not experienced in decades.

Marco Rossi’s role at the national team is more than a new job for him. For Leekens, this was just another new appointment with another national team. He did not plan to live in Hungary, and even when he heard the news of his sacking, he was staying in Belgium. Rossi on the other hand has lived in Hungary for 6 years and has shown his dedication and love for the country during his time at Honvéd and Dunaszerdahely. In interviews, on the news that he was linked with the Hungary job, he responded with words expressing humility such as “honoured” and “humbling”.

It is this what sets him apart from Leekens. He will show 100% commitment and will motivate players to show passion on the pitch as he is personally invested in the team. Hopefully he will bring cohesion, which was not seen in performances under Leekens’ tenure. He has no international experience, but all good international managers have to start somewhere and he is the best for Hungary at the moment. He already has that good connection with fans in the country that Leekens could only dream of. Rossi’s time as a lot of uncertainty over it and may not go as planned. However, most fans will agree that they would rather lose under Rossi than Leekens as they know that at least with the Italian’s team they will lose with dignity.