The primary task of the U21 team is to nurture players for the national team, and from this perspective 2016 was a highly successful year as six young players followed in the footsteps of László Kleinheisler and Ádám Nagy and made their debuts for Bernd Storck’s team.
The summer also saw a managerial change as Michael Boris took over the reins from Robert Kilin at the beginning of August. Boris immediately began Hungarian language lessons but also needed some time spent together with the team before his work began to bear success.
Speaking to mlsz.hu, Boris spoke about his bedding-in period: “The most important thing in the beginning is that we get to know one another and carry out work which we win each other’s respect. I received a lot of help from my Hungarian colleagues and backroom staff at the beginning and I’d like to thank them for that. We spent long, tiring days together at the first get-together. During this time we played against two completely different opponents and also introduced a number of new players into the team. I believe that the squad has gelled on and off the pitch”.
Boris’ team defeated Liechtenstein 4-0 before drawing 1-1 away to Poland in front of a crowd of 8,500 in his first two matches at the helm. Following this, a great team performance resulted in a 3-3 draw with Portugal in the penultimate European Championship qualifying match. “All three Portugal goals stemmed from individual mistakes and this is likely to be the case against such illustrious opponents. It’s always difficult to come back from two goals down, particularly against strong opponents. I’m happy with the result because my team never lost their belief and fought until the very end. We didn’t give up even after their third goal went in; we gave it our all and it paid dividends, I’m very proud of my team” he said after the match.
The year finished with a 3-1 defeat away to Greece in the team’s final qualification match but with the group placings already decided there was little at stake. The most important task of the U21 team isn’t simply a case of results though. László Kleinheisler and Ádám Nagy have recently made the step up to the full national team and providing such a route is just as important as results on the pitch. Seven players – Endre Botka, Szilveszter Hangya, Dávid Márkvárt, Bence Mervó, Gergely Nagy, Attila Osváth and Roland Sallai – appeared in the senior national squad in 2016. Máté Vida made his debut against Ivory Coast in May whereas Barnabás Bese played against Germany in a pre-tournament friendly and then against Portugal at the European Championship in France. The final match of the year, a friendly against Sweden at the Groupama Aréna, saw a further four players follow in Vida and Bese’s footsteps, Zsombor Berecz, Endre Botka, Szilveszter Hangya and Dominik Nagy all given their debuts.
National team head coach Bernd Storck has been delighted with the progress that Hungary’s U21 and youth level players showed in 2016. “I’d like to congratulate the players who made their debuts against Sweden; they deserve to be there on the back of their performances for their club sides and at the national team get-togethers. The Sweden game was a good test; the young players need international experience of playing against opponents who operate at a fast tempo if they are to develop. You could say we’ve making good progress at youth level, it makes me very happy that all of our U17 and U19 sides – the women’s and the men’s – made it through to the elite qualification round”.
Hungary U21 team results in 2016:
Hungary 0-0 Israel (European Championship qualifier, 24th March)
Albania 2-1 Hungary (European Championship qualifier, 28th March)
Hungary 4-0 Liechtenstein (European Championship qualifier, 1st September)
Poland 1-1 Hungary (friendly, 6th September)
Hungary 3-3 Portugal (European Championship qualifier, 6th October)
Greece 3-1 Hungary (European Championship qualifier, 10th October)
Source: MLSZ – press release