The hard work put in by the team is paying dividends, says Bernd Storck, but coming first in the group doesn’t change anything; Hungary remain underdogs. The national team coach has been speaking to mlsz.hu at the team’s imposing Terre Blanche hotel following the end of the UEFA EURO 2016 group stage.
“The truth is that we’ve worked ever so hard in order to have such a team” he said. “I was certain that the players who were receiving their first opportunity to play in France would hold their own on Wednesday. We wanted to rest those players already on a yellow card in the last group match, but everyone in the squad is of a similar level; they proved this against Portugal. We are the only team who has already used all of their 20 outfield players in the tournament. This is a question of trust: I trust in my team and I receive that trust back from the players on the pitch, from the fans and from the whole country”.
Asked whether he had expected the team to play so well, Storck replied “yes, I believed they would: I’ve seen in training that the team is capable of playing much better than they usually do for their clubs. This conclusion is the result of hard work. If you have a professional attitude, know where your team needs to develop and how you can reach your goal, success can be achieved by hard work. At first everyone ridiculed me when I said we have talented players and that we just have to bring out the best in them. I had to convince the players that it was worth putting in the right amount of work. I’ve built the team up from the beginning; we’ve come on leaps and bounds since the qualification play-off but this is also down to the federation. The president Sándor Csányi and secretary-general Márton Vági have backed me wholeheartedly. They trust me and give me everything I need in order to carry out high quality professional work”.
The conversation then moved on to the subject of László Kleinheisler. Not many coaches would have picked him for the play-off matches given that he hadn’t played first-team football all season; Kleinheisler now plays for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. “I’ve come across many young players who get called up for the national team squad and get a little scared, frightened; they keep their distance from the more experienced players. But when Kleinheisler arrived at the training camp he behaved as if he’d been part of the set-up for years. He played without nerves in training right from the off, and when you see that in a player he immediately wins your trust. When Andy Möller first came to Hungary and saw László play he told me he was a wonderful talent. But we have other talented players as well”.
“Our talented youngsters require the right working conditions in order for their talent to flourish. We at the national team continually develop every member of the staff and we now really do have an expert, professional staff all the way from the medical team, through video analysis, to the kit manager; everyone included. This includes continually measuring the players’ performance, their speed, and carrying out blood-count analysis and lactic-acid tests. Every one of our players has a profile which helps the coaches when working out the tactics. Practically every team at international level works in this way. It’s good to see that there are also some clubs in the Hungarian championship who have begun to work in this manner but every Hungarian club needs to work like this if Hungarian football is to develop”.
“It’s very important that youngsters get an opportunity. A good example of this is that when I arrived the team always played 4-4-2. By bringing in Ádám Nagy and Kleinheisler, complemented by the experienced Zoltán Gera it gives us many more opportunities. We can play in different styles, and this is important because we don’t dominate our matches; we try to build from a very well-organised back line and score from clever build-up play. We have players in our squad who play in many different styles but everyone brings contributes to our success; we need to play different styles against different teams”.
The team’s performances in each of the three European Championship matches has won the recognition of supporters and experts alike, but it hasn’t just been the performances which have been outstanding, results have been too. “We picked strong opponents during our preparation for a reason. It was in these matches that we convinced the players that if they could carry out their work to the letter, what we planned, then they would also be capable of competing against the top teams. We committed mistakes, but they helped us play better against Austria. I must emphasise that we played very nice football against Iceland. It was wonderful to watch how we kept possession and sought to attack and create chances. How we played against Portugal was clearly the best performance since I’ve been here. We played against a team full of world-class players and more than held our own. We had already faced similarly strong opponents during our preparation and it was then that it transpired that if everyone knows their job on the pitch then there won’t be any issues. We had to work a huge amount on this; in addition to training together everyone received a special individually tailored analysis on the opponents’ players they’d meet on the pitch. That we came first in the group is the result of all this hard work”.
“Despite our success we must keep two feet firmly on the ground; we’re going to work hard for the next success but we must progress step by step. The next step is that we also perform similarly well against Belgium. Our opponents on Sunday are full of world-class players. It will be very tough against them. There will most likely be changes to the team again. We have deserved our success because we’ve worked hard for it. We have never played four such tough matches within such a short space of time, but the players believe in us that we can prepare them for the next few days in order that they can compete against Belgium. We’ll continue to work; we’re progressing step by step, but we’re on the right path”.
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