Magyarország / Hungary
- Capital: Budapest
- Official Languages: Hungarian
- Nicknames: Magyarok (Magyars); Nemzeti Tizenegy (National Eleven)
- Association: Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség (MLSZ)
- FIFA Code: HUN
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Finalists (1938, 1954)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Third Place (1964)
- Best Euros Result (Women): Quarter Finals (1991)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 18th (April-May 2016)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 26th (July 2003)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 87th (July 1996)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 45th (June 2018)
- Most Capped Player: Anita Pádár – 126 caps
- Top Scorer: Ferenc Puskás – 84 goals
Hungary is located in central Europe, with its beautiful capital of Budapest situated on the majestic river Danube. Hungary’s footballing history is long and extensive with the country’s FA (then part of the dual monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) becoming a FIFA member as early as 1907. They first appeared in the 1934 World Cup and even managed to reach the 1938 World Cup final, but lost 2-4 to defending champions Italy in the final. However Hungary’s golden era occured in the 1950s when a world-class generation of talent came through together to make the Magyars the best team in international football. Inspired by such incredible talent like “the Galloping Major” Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, attacking half-back József Bozsik and second striker Nándor Hidegkuti, the Aranycsapat (“Golden Team“) went on an incredible run of results. The famous of which was destroying the ridiculous myth of English football superiority when they demolished the Three Lions at Wembley in 1953, before repeating the feat in Budapest to confirm Hungary’s position as one of the most gifted and tactically superior teams in world football. Alas that generation never managed to lift a deserved World Cup trophy when they were stunned in the 1954 World Cup final, being on the wrong side of the ‘Miracle of Bern‘ against the unfancied but canny West Germans. That would be the start of the decline of Hungary, with the unsucessful Hungarian Uprising in 1956 also having a huge impact on the fortunes of the team with many of its players going into exile, such as Puskás.
Hungary would continue to be one of those teams who would continuously qualify for tournaments but even that stopped as the fortunes of the international team continually faded from the magic days of the 1950s. Their last World Cup appearance was back in 1986, whilst their last European Championship appearance was further back in 1972. However the fortunes of the Magyars improved in the 2010s when the side qualified for the 2016 European Championship, their first major tournament in 30 years, and first without a communist government since 1938. They would be one of the surprise packages in the tournament as they topped their group ahead of Iceland, (eventual winners) Portugal and Austria. Hungary’s fortunes seem to increasing further with the Nemzeti Tizenegy having gained promotion to the top level of European Football (Division A) in the UEFA Nations League, as well as qualifying for their second successive Euros when they beat Iceland in the playoff final by scoring two late goals in tie at Budapest. With such exciting talent, such as Dominik Szoboszlai, being brought into the national team, the fortunes of Hungary look to be gallopping forward once again…
Talking about the Mighty Magyars, who have marched upto Division A of the UEFA Nations League, and will also take part in the upcoming European Championships, is Bence Horváth. A Hungarian freelance writer who has written excellent articles for the website Forgotten Clubs, as well as running the superb Football In Luxembourg Twitter account (where he also answered the questions about Luxembourg previously). To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @meccsparadeHUN
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Most of you expect Ferenc Puskás’ name to be mentioned here, and I think he’s the name that comes into every football fan’s mind when we talk about Hungary. So I’ll name him as the best, although every player of the ’50s Golden Team would deserve a mention (if I’d have to name someone for the second place, that would be Sándor Kocsis, who scored 75 goals in 68 appearances for the national team in that golden era). But there were other big names in the country’s history, honourable mentions go to László Kubala, the Barca legend, and dr. György Sárosi, who was the first world-class player of the country and the captain of Hungary in the 1938 (lost) World Cup final versus Italy. And I haven’t even mentioned the only Hungarian ever to win the Ballon d’Or, Flórián Albert of Ferencváros, who got it in 1967.
As you could see, the decision was a quite tough one but that’s even tougher if we look at managers. A trio comes to my mind, I’ll let you decide who’s the best of the three big reformers of the Hungarian tactical (r)evolution in the ’50s. Gusztáv Sebes was the manager of the Mighty Magyars, who played, as he refers to, the ‘socialist football’ which was very similar to what was later known as the ‘Total Football‘. His successor was his former assistant, Márton Bukovi, who had already managed the biggest Hungarian teams by his appointment as national team manager. He was the one, who developed the 4-2-4 formation with one of the strikers being used as something like a Deep Lying Forward, as it is known nowadays. The third member of the trio is Béla Guttmann, the last coach who won a European title with SL Benfica before their curse began as he was sacked. He already paid attention to the footballers’ diet, which was very unique even in the 1990s, let alone three or four decades before that.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
As I couldn’t find anyone who could be regarded as a cult hero from the current squad, I hope it still counts if I type Zoltán Gera, who retired in 2018. Gera wasn’t only Hungary’s cult hero, but the fans of West Bromwich Albion, and mainly, Fulham adored him too because of his work ethic, his intelligence both on and off the pitch, and of course because of the wonders he did with both of his feet.
The 1970s and 80s were dominated by cult heroes of Hungary, two of which were fast, agile, and adept dribblers: Tibor Göröcs in the 70s, followed by András Törőcsik. Both of them played at Újpesti Dózsa in the peak of their careers, but Törőcsik also tried himself in France as he spent 6 months in Montpellier.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Hungary currently?
At the moment I’d say Péter Gulácsi is the best. The goalkeeper performs consistently on a world-class level in an elite European club, which was rare in Hungary in the past years. I’m not sure my answer will be the same if you’ll ask me in a few years’ time, because the upcoming generation of players have the potential to become maybe even a bit better than Gulácsi.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
It couldn’t be any better, honestly. We are in the European Championships, once again, and we will play against the world’s elite in the UEFA Nations League next year – at least 2020 was good for the national team, if not for anyone else. The tactical and mental parts also need to be highlighted as the team didn’t lack in either the fighting spirit and the composure required in the decisive moments. I’m delighted with the performance of the foreign-based players, for example, all of our five Bundesliga-based players get enough game time lately which is a promising sign, and a big improvement compared to 5 or 10 years ago.
Q. Are there any Hungarian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
It would be far too obvious to write Dominik Szoboszlai, wouldn’t it? I can’t emphasize his talent and the rarity of a Hungarian player of that type. We’ll see how he does for RB Leipzig, but if I’d have to give a few shouts for scouts, I’d tell them the following names:
- Botond Balogh, aged 18, has already made his debut for Parma’s senior side, in a cup match, which was followed by two more appearances since (one against giants Inter).
- Csaba Bukta is going through Red Bull Salzburg’s youth ranks, just like Szoboszlai. He was at their second tier affiliate club FC Liefering, until the 18th January, when he was then loaned out to a club in the Austrian Bundesliga (to SCR Altach, to be precise).
- Szabolcs Schön currently plays in the Hungarian Division 1, for one of the most exciting young teams in Europe, MTK Budapest. Schön, however, isn’t a product of the Blue-Whites’ youth academy, as he spent two years in Ajax’s underage teams after departing from Honvéd’s youth team. The left-winger has 13 league matches under his belt and has already netted 4 times, with an assist produced, too.
Q. Looking at Hungary’s long international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
The game, which was announced (and is still called) as ‘The Match of the Century‘ between the Mighty Magyars and the nearly unbeatable English team. Well, it appeared as they were beatable, as they conceded six… That 3-6 was the first home defeat from a non-UK side for England at Wembley. The match showed England how naïve and old-school their tactics were, compared to a more modern, more unique, and professionally developed match plan and fluid tactics which required such strong stamina and fitness levels that England simply couldn’t cope with. The cherry on top was the 7-1 victory in Budapest in the return fixture, but that didn’t get near as much media hype and attention as the 3-6.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Hungary qualified for the Euros for the first time after 44 years in 2016. The fans loved it, hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Hungarian footballers were marching on the streets of Budapest, in the national team’s kits, with a scarf and a hat on themselves, fifes in their mouths. Nobody could’ve thought that largely the same squad would be able to lose to minnows Andorra only a year later. Marc Rebés scored the only goal in the 2018 World Cup qualifier which is still well remembered by the fans. By that time, Andorra hadn’t won in their previous 66 matches. Fun fact: this was Szoboszlai’s first national team call-up aged 16, despite staying on the bench and not making his debut against Andorra.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Hungarian national team?
Whenever we are in a good streak or qualify for a World Cup/Euros, everyone gets passionate. And when I say everyone, I don’t only refer to football fans but the whole nation. The national team’s Euro 2016 matches were watched by the entire country, and even my grandmas knew who did we play against and what were the results. It’s great to see such strong support.
Maybe that’s what a general football fan / average fan does but the fanbase is incredibly toxic sometimes. After a defeat or two, our hero goes to zero in their eyes, the beloved players turn into public enemies, all of a sudden. They can’t really esteem some of our biggest players if they don’t score for a few matches.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
After our qualification to Euro 2016, a song called ‘Az éjjel soha nem ér véget‘ quickly became popular (again) among the supporters. This electropop song was released in 1998 and was a big hit at that time. It was brought back in 2016 and became something like our hymn for that tournament. As the title would suggest – ‘The Night Never Ends‘ – the lyrics have no connection to football, more like a party hymn with strong ecstatic vibes. That’s Hungary’s edition of ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire‘ if I could say that.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
That’s just my personal opinion, but I haven’t seen any special designs/patterns in a Hungarian shirt yet, and most of our kits were pretty similar over the years. So, if I’d have to name one, the answer would be once again 2016 – but I could only decide based on how did we perform in each shirt.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Hungarian national team?
For now, I’d be glad with just conceding as few as we can in the upcoming Euros ‘group of death‘ (Germany, Portugal, France) and maybe we should avoid the drop in the Nations League. Also, I hope Szoboszlai won’t be the only one from his generation who can catch the eye of fans, scouts, and analysts from outside the country as well. I’m confident this generation has the potential, in a few years we’ll be able to see.
A massive nagyon szépen köszönjük to Bence for answering our questions on the Mighty Magyars. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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