Euro 2020 preview, Group F – Hungary: Tomasz Mortimer on what to expect from outsiders
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, journalist Tomasz Mortimer gives us his take on Hungary…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
Hungary would have always been outsiders going into Euro 2020. On paper, the team is far from special, they finished fourth in their qualifying group and then had to rely on two late goals in a play-off to make it to the big tournament.
Then the groups were drawn and Hungary dropped from outsiders to rank outsiders. Though results have been good lately with wins coming over Serbia, Turkey and Iceland, if you offered most people Hungary a point from the group now, they’d probably take it. European Championships are tough at the best of times but when you’re drawn against the last three major tournament winners [Germany, Portugal and France] in the same group, it makes things even tougher.
Hungary will have the fans on their side, though, and that is something to consider. The Portugal and France games will be played in Budapest in front of a crowd and Hungary are a strong side at home as shown in qualifying when they beat Croatia and Wales.
Maybe that’s a small crumb of comfort for Hungarian fans. Another is that they did draw against Portugal in the last Euros too, so maybe they can hope for the same here.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
Hungary’s biggest strength is their togetherness and that is not something to be underestimated. Many international sides can look like a bunch of individuals thrown together with no real shape and no real plan but that’s not an accusation you can throw at Hungary.
They almost play like a club side, they’re so disciplined and tactically astute, and you can see that in their style: there are patterns in attack, there is organisation in the press, there is connection in defence.
And though they’re not flashy and on paper they look weak, this makes them a really stubborn prospect to face.
And any weaknesses?
Goals. Though Hungary are stubborn, resilient and tactically astute, there is a real lack of flair, creativity and goals.
Hungary’s top goalscorer is Adam Szalai with 28, then the closest to him is Nemanja Nikolics with 8, then Willi Orban with 5 and he’s a centre-back.
If Hungary go 1-0 down in any of their games, they will really struggle to turn it around, especially versus the exceptional defences they’re up against.
Set pieces and counter attacks will be Hungary’s main route to goal, just don’t expect them to play open and expansive football because that’s not happening.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
Dominik Szoboszlai is the reason Hungary are here at Euro 2020. Szoboszlai scored a magnificent solo goal to take Hungary to the finals last year and he is a real star in the making. However, Szoboszlai hasn’t played a single game since moving to RB Leipzig in January due to injury, so it remains to be seen what type of Szoboszlai we will see.
Without him at his best, Hungary will be a shadow of what they could be, especially as the like for like replacement in Zsolt Kalmar is also out injured. With him, Szoboszlai provides Hungary with much-needed flair and creativity that is so sorely lacking.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
Since moving to Fenerbache in January, 23-year-old Attila Szalai has been magnificent, securing his place as one of the first names on the team sheet and attracting the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Szalai has every string that a centre-back needs for his bow. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s excellent on the ball, he’s intelligent and he has a great range of passing.
Alongside Willi Orban he has formed a formidable partnership for Hungary and I expect him to shine against some of Europe’s elite this summer.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
Hungary will be fortunate to get a point. Put Hungary’s squad side-by-side with any of the other teams in the group and you’ll see why.
Most of the players Hungary will be facing will be playing in Europe’s top six divisions. In comparison, Hungary have only five players in any of those leagues and around half of Hungary’s squad play in a division that’s ranked 27th in Europe. The task is monumental.
But sometimes it’s good to have zero expectations. They are in decent form, two of their games are at home and they are only improving under manager Marco Rossi.
If Portugal take them lightly in the opener then I would not be surprised if Hungary got something. At home, Hungary are strong and with their tactical nous and togetherness there could be a shock on the cards.
I’m backing them to get a point against Portugal, then lose closely to Germany and France.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
France and Kylian Mbappe.