Hungary Euro 2016 Preview

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The Hungary Euro 2016 Campaign kicks off on June 14th in what will be the nation’s first European Championship match since 1972. To say the Hungarians are underdogs to find their way into the knockout stages would be an understatement, but to dismiss the struggles they’ve overcome to qualify at all would be a mistake.

The Squad

Keepers: Dénes Dibusz (Ferencváros), Péter Gulácsi (Leipzig), Gábor Király (Haladás)

Defenders: Barnabás Bese (MTK), Attila Fiola (Puskás Akadémia), Richárd Guzmics (Wisła), Roland Juhász (Videoton), Tamás Kádár (Lech), Mihály Korhut (Debrecen), Ádám Lang (Videoton), Ádám Pintér (Ferencváros)

Midfielders: Ákos Elek (Diósgyőr), László Kleinheisler (Bremen), Gergő Lovrencsics (Lech), Ádám Nagy (Ferencváros), Zoltán Stieber (Nürnberg)

Forwards: Dániel Böde (Ferencváros), Balázs Dzsudzsák (Bursaspor), Zoltán Gera (Ferencváros), Krisztián Németh (Al-Gharafa), Nemanja Nikolić (Legia), Tamás Priskin (Slovan Bratislava), Ádám Szalai (Hannover)

How Many Coaches Does it Take…?

In this day and age, it is common to see teams sacking managers after a few bad results. However, what this team overcame during the qualifiers is incredible. After failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, coach Sander Egervari resigned. His replacement, Attila Pinter, was, if possible, less successful, as he was sacked after his first competitive match; a 2-1 loss to Northern Ireland in the first match of qualifying.

Pal Dardai was the replacement chosen to continue Hungary’s quest to qualify for the European Championship. After earning seven points in his first three games at the helm, Germany’s Hertha Berlin came calling and named him their interim manager and after finding success he was given a long-term contract after agreeing to leave Hungary to focus on his club duties. Finally, Bernd Storck was named the interim replacement to see the country through qualifiers.

Qualifying

How does a team managed by three different individuals in one qualifying cycle manage to qualify? One advantage was they were in what most perceived to be one of the weakest qualifying groups (Group F: Northern Ireland, Romania, Finland, Faroe Islands, and Greece).

They were able to manage four wins, four draws and only two losses. While this wasn’t enough to gain an automatic berth into the tournament proper—they finished third behind Northern Ireland and Romania—it was good enough to secure a two game play-off against Norway. In November 2015, they beat the Norwegians 3-1 on aggregate, booking their tickets to France.

Through the group stage, the two leading goal scorers were Dániel Böde and Krisztián Németh with two apiece, and seven players scoring one each for a total of eleven goals through 10 games. In the two game play-off, László Kleinheisler and Tamás Priskin each scored and Norwegian, Markus Henriksen, provided some aid by scoring an own goal.

Group F

Along with Hungary, Group F is made up of Portugal, Austria, and Iceland. While Hungary can feel somewhat satisfied to have, again, been placed in a relatively weak group, they will not be favourites going into any of their three matches in the competition.

One thing about tournaments of all types, people can get behind an underdog. With little to no pressure and the prospect of qualifying for the Last 16 even if they finish third in their group, Hungary could be an interesting team to watch.