Goals from Sam Larsson and Isaac Thelin saw Hungary defeated in their international friendly against Sweden at the Groupama Aréna tonight as they bade farewell to four of their stalwarts over the last decade and more, Gábor Király, Roland Juhász, Tamás Hajnal and Vilmos Vanczák.
Hungary’s team was almost entirely different from the one which comprehensively defeated Andorra in Sunday evening’s FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier, only Zoltán Stieber and Dániel Böde featuring on the teamsheet from the 14 players who took to the pitch just two days ago. Hungary therefore lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, golkeeper and captain Király and central defender Juhász taking up starting positions for their final times in an international shirt. Kádár and Fiola were the full-backs with Ádám Pintér partnering Juhász behind Ákos Elek and debutant Máté Vida in central midfield. Further forward, Gergő Lovrencics, Zoltán Stieber and Krisztián Németh formed an attacking three behind Tamás Priskin in the lone striker’s role.
The visitors started the brighter, Christopher Nyman’s right-wing cross falling invitingly for Oscar Wenedt after only two minutes but the left-winger, playing UEFA Champions League football with Borussia Moenchengladbach this season, saw his volley from the back of the penalty area blocked by Attila Fiola. In the sixth minute, Hungary showed their attacking intent for the first time, a searching crossfield pass from Stieber finding Lovrencsics in space on the far side but he couldn’t quite take it down and fashion a shot at goal, the ball instead running out for a goal-kick.
Sweden’s Wenedt was in the action again in the 13th minute when he delivered a fine near-post cross for Nyman but the Eintracht Braunschweig forward headed disappointly wide, albeit under pressure from a covering Juhász. Three minutes later the first major chance was created when Sam Larsson’s drive from distance bounced out off Király, but Sweden striker Isaac Thelin could only crash the rebound onto the crossbar. Hungary hit back almost straightaway but Lovrencsics’ low shot flew just wide after very neat, one-touch interplay saw Hungary rapidly move from defence to attack. An end-to-end period of the game then saw Larsson put through by Nyman but Király evoked old memories by flying out to the rescue and smartly gathering the low shot from 14 metres.
Hungary very nearly took the lead in the 26th minute when Németh danced his way through the Sweden defence but his right-footed drive flew a matter of centimetres wide of the far left post. Two minutes later, Király was substituted to applause from all sides of the stadium, a fitting farewell to Hungary’s record appearance-maker with 108 caps.
Unfortunately for his replacement, debutant Balázs Megyeri, his first touch in international football was to pick the ball out of his net after Larsson fired a free-kick through the defensive wall and into the right side of the goal. Megyeri had a brighter moment before half-time though, saving well low to his left after Pontus Jansson’s neat turn and shot in one movement 12 metres out. The 45th minute saw Juhász given his chance to receive a similar tribute to Király as he was substituted for another debutant Szilveszter Hangya to acclaim from all in attendance.
With another debutant Zsombor Berecz on the pitch in place of Máté Vida, Hungary made a positive start to the second half but weren’t able to create any clear chances for temporary captain Priskin up front, the Slovan Bratislava then handing over the armband to Hungary’s fourth captain of the evening, Tamás Kádár, when he made way for Dániel Böde. Kádár, playing in central defence now with young left-back Hangya on the pitch, made a solid block from Jakob Johansson after his turn just inside the Hungary penalty area just after the hour-mark and the AEK Athens midfielder threatened again three minutes later but his long-distance drive was gathered cleanly by Megyeri.
Sweden were definitely on the front foot and like all good teams they managed to score when in the ascendancy, a second goal coming in the 67th minute when Thelin rifled the ball past Megyeri from a tight angle after twisting his way clear on the left side of the penalty area. Youngsters Endre Botka and Dominik Nagy came on for their debuts as head coach Bernd Storck freshened up the lineup but his team were unable to seriously breach the Swedish defence, the visitors ultimately emerging with a 2-0 victory.
Photo: MTI, Balázs Béli