Hajrá Magyarok!

Way back in November I wrote an article on here congratulating Hungary on qualifying for their first major tournament in 44 years; on Tuesday I meant to write a piece previewing their momentous return to top level International football , however, for one reason or another – mainly spending too much watching all the other games – this fell by the way side.  Thankfully guys like Tomasz Mortimer and the brilliant HungarianFootball.com are more on the ball than me when it comes to reporting on Hungarian football.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with anything, it’s not like I’ve been blogging about the tournament up until now, I don’t regularly blog about Hungarian football, and I’m not Hungarian; so why the interest?  Simply, my girlfriend is Hungarian – and very patriotic – and I love our trips ‘back home’ to see her family as the welcome is always warm and Pálinka fuelled.  With Scotland not making the Finals, quelle surprise, Hungary became the natural team for me to follow.

I also think that there’s a kinship and similarity between our two footballing histories.  Our best days at international and club levels came in the 1950’s and 60’s when both nations could lay claim to producing some of the games best players of the time; Puskas, Hidekguti, Law, and Jinky Johnstone to name but a few.  Ferencvaros and Celtic were also amongst the top names in European club football, regularly challenging for honours.  Unfortunately, both nations then followed the same downward trajectory over the prevailing few decades with neither domestic league nor international side being thought of as among the best in Europe.  Perhaps Hungary’s reappearance at the top table of European football can ignite a similar spark in the Scottish national team and both nations can create a new generation of heroes.

Hungary Vs. Austria

Having watched Hungary’s last pre-tournament friendly against Germany the thought of this team producing a new generation of heroes seemed pretty far-fetched, and, like most observers, I didn’t have high hopes for Hungary going into the Austria game.  The Austrian’s were defensively solid throughout qualifying and always carried a threat in attack.  In David Alaba they also have one of the best players at the tournament.  Hungary on the other hand were not all that convincing in qualifying, relying on defeating a very poor Norway in the play-offs.  Facing  Austria in the opening game  would be a real test for Hungary.

And so it proved with Alaba threatening Kiraly’s goal in the opening minutes.  However, as the game wore on Hungary settled into it and looked like a very well organised and disciplined outfit; credit must to Bernd Storck for that turn-a-round.

Goals from Ádám Szalai –whom I had earlier heaped praise on for his polished performance – and a sweet dinked finish late on courtesy of Zoltán Steiber secured a well deserved 2-0 victory.

After 44 years, Hungary returned with a bang.

Hungary Vs. Iceland

Game two of Euro2016 for Hungary is against the group minnows, Iceland.  Minnows in that the entire population of Iceland is only about 350,000; putting that into perspective, the population of Budapest alone is approximately 1.7million.  However, Iceland is at the tournament on merit and proved this with a great team performance against Portugal, shocking many by scoring a 1-1 draw.

Like Hungary, Iceland is not a team made up of star players but is rather a sum of its parts, a collection of good, hard working footballer’s committed to succeeding where most observers think they will fail.

Today’s game may not be full of flashes of individual brilliance or packed with household names but it should be an intriguing encounter between two well organised sides with distinctive styles, both looking for a win that would all but seal an historic qualification to the knock out stages – in Hungary’s case a win will guarantee qualification.

With Portugal to come in the final group game, the match against Iceland is the perfect occasion for the likes of Balázs Dzsudzsák, Szalái, and youngster Ádám Nagy to step up and write themselves into Hungarian football folklore by ensuring qualification with a game to spare.

And if they need any further encouragement, I’ll be out in Hungary for the Round of 16 and would like to cheer the boys on when I’m there.

Ria Ria Hungaria!

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