Hungary football Marco Rossi
Photo: MTI

With the 3rd game fast approaching in Group 2 of the new UEFA Nations League, Hungary is currently in second place, behind Finland. The national team’s last game against Greece was a spectacular first-half affair, with goals from Roland Sallai and Laszlo Kleinheisler. Despite an initial loss in the first match to Finland, most Hungry fans are optimistic about the team and their new boss, Marco Rossi. With the Italian’s recent appointment in June, the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) is looking to turn a new chapter into what has been a frustrating couple of years for the national team.

Hungary’s Euro 2016 qualification brought to an end a 30-year drought and was the first major tournament for the national team since World Cup 1986.

In an impressive group stage performance, the Hungarians remained undefeated and qualified for the Round of 16 only to be defeated 4-0 by a formidable Belgian side. Following the tournament, Bernd Stock’s team were unable to produce results and regressed with a draw against Faroe Islands and loss to Andorra during the World Cup 2018 qualification campaign. Rossi’s appointment was welcomed by both fans and experts, especially after he selected Hungarian legend Zoltan Gera as his assistant.

Gera is on hand to assist Rossi, as well as help him learn the language.

Rossi initially didn’t speak a word of Hungarian, and promised he would learn it as quickly as possible for the sake of the team.

Hungary Today report that Rossi’s reputation is of a strict, humble, organised, persistent, motivating and intelligent man. Despite his best efforts, the interval between his appointment and the beginning of the Nations League, did not afford the Italian coach the necessary time to test player tactics and team cohesion.

Hungary’s close 1-0 defeat to Finland was in part due to the lack of preparation. Yet, looking at the head-to-head stats, both teams were fairly equal in strength. Despite Rossi’s side enjoying 66% of the possession, Hungary were still unable to convert any chances and it was Finland’s single goal in the 7th minute which decided the game. Teemu Pukki’s left footed shot from inside the penalty area was a defensive lapse by Tamás Kádár and Attila Fiola. Against Greece, the Italian’s tactics paid off with a 2-1 victory and gained them second place in Group 2.

While the format of the Nations League can be a bit confusing, especially when it comes to Euro 2020 qualifying, the process is logical. With four play-off spots for each of the four leagues, sixteen teams could get a second opportunity to progress to Euro 2020, if their first campaign in the Nations League is not successful. This means that Hungary must finish first in Group 2 of the Nations League or in the top two of the following Euro qualifiers to secure a spot at the tournament.

With a young side that includes the likes of Ádám Szalai, the top scorer in the Bundesliga, Rossi still has his work cut out for him in moulding the young Hungarian side to become the dream team the national side was in the 1950s.

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Contributed by Jana Bleacher

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