2016 saw Hungary appear at a European Championship for the first time in 44 years and make it through the group stage at a major tournament for the first time in 50.
Hungary qualified to the 2016 European Championship in France by beating Norway home and away. Bernd Storck’s team warmed up for the tournament with three tough friendly matches, the first a 1-1 draw at home to Croatia in which Hungary played particularly well in the second half, prompting Croatia head coach Ante Čačić to state that: “our opponents proved they are in the Euros on merit, and once there they have a chance of progressing”.
Hungary’s preparation was aided by the squad holding a number of get-togethers in the run-up to France, NB I clubs agreeing to fixture rearrangements in order to give Storck’s team the best chance of success. The squad spent two weeks in Austria in May before returning to Hungary and setting off for France, with the opening match against Austria taking place in Bordeaux on the 14th June.
One of international football’s greatest and longest-standing rivalries, Austria against Hungary saw Storck’s men up against more fancied opponents, Austria having qualified ahead of Russia and Sweden in spectacular fashion. Hungary proved the stronger on the day however, recording a famous 2-0 victory with second-half goals from Ádám Szalai and substitute Zoltán Stieber.
Austria 0-2 Hungary (0-0)
Austria: Almer – Klein, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Fuchs – Baumgartlinger, Alaba – Harnik (Schöpf 78’), Junuzovic (Sabitzer 60’), Arnautovic – Janko (Okotie 65’)
Hungary: Gábor Király – Attila Fiola, Richárd Guzmics, Ádám Lang, Tamás Kádár – Zoltán Gera, Ádám Nagy – Balázs Dzsudzsák, László Kleinheisler (Zoltán Stieber 80’), Németh Krisztián – Ádám Szalai (Tamás Priskin 68’)
Goalscorers: Szalai (62’), Stieber (87’)
The team’s next match was against an Iceland side which had drawn with Portugal in their opening fixture. Iceland took the lead a few minutes before half-time from the penalty spot but Hungary kept fighting and got an equaliser with only moments left when Nemanja Nikolić forced an own-goal from Sævarsson. As it later transpired, the point gained against Iceland was enough to guarantee qualification for the knockout stages.
Iceland 1-1 Hungary (1-0)
Iceland: Halldórsson – Sævarsson, Árnasson, R. Sigurðsson, Skúlason – Guðmundsson, Gunnarsson (Hallfreðsson 66’), G. Sigurðsson, Bjarnason – Sigþórsson (Gudjohnsen 84’), Böðvarsson (Finnbogason 69’)
Magyarország: Gábor Király – Ádám Lang, Roland Juhász (Ádám Szalai 85’), Richárd Guzmics, Tamás Kádár – Zoltán Gera – Balázs Dzsudzsák, Ádám Nagy, László Kleinheisler, Zoltán Stieber (Nemanja Nikolić 66’) – Tamás Priskin (Dániel Böde 66’)
Goalscorers: ISL: Sigurdsson (39’ pen); HUN: Sævarsson (88’ own goal)
Hungary’s last group-stage match was against Portugal, whom they had failed to beat in 10 previous encounters. That hoodoo wasn’t successfully broken but the exciting six-goal thriller will last long in the memory.
Hungary 3-3 Portugal (1-1)
Hungary: Gábor Király – Ádám Lang, Roland Juhász, Richárd Guzmics, Mihály Korhut – Ádám Pintér, Ákos Elek – Gergő Lovrencsics (Zoltán Stieber 83’), Zoltán Gera (Barnabás Bese 46’), Balázs Dzsudzsák – Ádám Szalai (Krisztián Németh 71’).
Head coach: Bernd Storck
Portugal: Rui Patrício – Vieirinha, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Eliseu – André Gomes (Ricardo Quaresma 61’), William Carvalho, João Moutinho (Renato Sanches 46’), João Mário – Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani (Danilo Pereira 81’)
Head coach: Fernando Santos
Goalscorers: HUN: Gera (19’) Dzsudzsák (47’, 55’); POR: Nani (42’), Cristiano Ronaldo (50’, 62’)
The draw against Portugal meant that Hungary finished top of Group F, going through to face much-fancied Belgium in the last sixteen. The match began badly with László Kleinheisler ruled out because of injury in the warm-up. Falling behind to an early goal, Hungary fought for an equaliser until the 78th minute, substitute Michy Batshuayi’s finish all but deciding the match before a further two late strikes saw Belgium run out 4-0 winners.
“We knew our opponents were very strong; they aren’t ranked second in the world without reason. I’m proud of what the team has achieved at the European Championship; we’ve developed from game to game and we can look to the future with optimism. The match might have turned out differently had we succeeded in equalising in the second half. We weren’t compact or brave enough in the first half, we lacked confidence. We return home with heads held high; the team has achieved wonders in the tournament”, said Storck after the match.
Hungary 0-4 Belgium (0-1)
Hungary: Gábor Király – Ádám Lang, Roland Juhász (Dániel Böde 79’), Richárd Guzmics, Tamás Kádár – Ádám Pintér (Nemanja Nikolić 75’), Ádám Nagy – Gergő Lovrencsics, Zoltán Gera (Ákos Elek 46’), Balázs Dzsudzsák – Ádám Szalai
Head coach: Bernd Storck
Belgium: Courtois – Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen – Nainggolan, Witsel – Mertens (Carrasco 70’), De Bruyne, Hazard (Fellaini 80’) – Lukaku (Batshuayi 76’)
Head coach: Marc Wilmots
Goalscorers: BEL: Alderweireld (10’), Batshuayi (78’), Hazard (80’), Carrasco (90+1’)
In total, 75,000 Hungarian supporters attended matches in France; 15,000 were in Bordeaux for the opening match against Austria, 30,000 in Marseille against Iceland, 20,000 in Lyon for the Portugal match and 10,000 in Toulouse for the Belgian game.
MLSZ President Sándor Csányi looked back on 2016 by saying that “we’ve had a great year compared to earlier ones; it was huge to beat Norway in the play-offs to qualify for France, and our performances there as well as qualification for the knockout stages touched a lot of people. We’re working hard to make Hungarian football popular, and there is still a long road ahead. Many young players have made the national team, which can act as an inspiration for young talent in the future”.
The national team lies in 26th place in the FIFA world rankings as of the end of 2016. Hungary are in the same World Cup qualifying group as European Champions Portugal (8th place) as well as Switzerland (11th place).
Hungarian national team matches in 2016:
Hungary 1-1 Croatia (friendly, 26th March)
Hungary 0-0 Ivory Coast (friendly, 20th May)
Germany 2-0 Hungary (friendly, 4th June)
Austria 0-2 Hungary (European Championship group match, 14th June)
Iceland 1-1 Hungary (European Championship group match, 18th June)
Hungary 3-3 Portugal (European Championship group match, 22nd June)
Hungary 0-4 Belgium (European Championship round of sixteen, 26th June)
Faroe Islands 0-0 Hungary (World Cup qualifier, 6th September)
Hungary 2-3 Switzerland (World Cup qualifier, 7th October)
Latvia 0-2 Hungary (World Cup qualifier, 10th October)
Hungary 4-0 Andorra (World Cup qualifier, 13th November)
Hungary 0-2 Sweden (friendly, 15th November)