After two hopeless defeats against Albania, a heavy defeat from England in Budapest, and a hard-fought narrow victory against amateur team Andorra, the Hungarian team had to prove it was still a team. The national eleven showed a different side yesterday and managed to draw with England in London. Still, only mathematical chances remained for the much-desired World Cup qualification.
Even though England thrashed Hungary in Budapest (0-4) and with two defeats against Albania the Hungarian team’s World Cup qualification chances virtually slipped away, the English team found itself facing a much more motivated and organized Hungarian team on Tuesday night.
As a result, it was the ‘Nemzeti 11’ who took the lead as Roland Sallai scored a penalty in the 24th minute. Although John Stones managed to equalize a little later, Hungary managed to absorb the English pressure afterwards, against all odds claiming one point during the London night match.
Several relevant experts highlighted after the recent sobering defeats that despite the generous state support, Hungarian football still lacks relevant expert staff, results in youth training, and a relevant professional hinterland that would be needed for lasting good performances (emphasizing that most of the core team has garnered football knowledge abroad). Many then blamed coach Marco Rossi for the failures, who was celebrated as a mastermind after the European Championship, to which he referred in his post-match statement.
“I think the boys followed the tactical instructions throughout the game very well, while putting their heart and soul out and added also some extra. We had a bit of luck too. We played against an English team that wasn’t maybe at its best. That may have contributed to the draw. This was the first time since 1953 when we [Hungary] didn’t lose in Wembley. It is hard to accept that in Hungary you are a hero when you win and an idiot when you lose. We had an incredible European Championship three months ago, but I said when the draw for the World Cup qualifiers was made that it would be a dream come true to qualify for the tournament, and our dreams have come to an end. That said, it always hurts when we get written off by those not so real fans after a bad result,” Rossi explained.
As a matter of fact, the match wasn’t free of minor disruptions either. First, some English fans booed the Hungarian national anthem, while the few Hungarians present did so with kneeling English players. Then, in the opening minutes of the game, one Hungarian fan reportedly made racist insults towards one of the stewards. In response, police officers went to the sector to arrest the misbehaving fan. However, other fans did not let them through and clashed with the policemen. After a short fight, with some Polish fans also joining in (who arrived to support Hungary), police were apparently forced to leave the sector but the troublemaker was taken into custody.
England–Hungary 1–1 (1–1)
London, Wembley, attendance: 69,380
England: Pickford – K. Walker, J. Stones, Mings, Shaw – Rice, Foden, Mount – Sterling (J. Henderson, 76.), Grealish (B. Saka, 62.) – Kane (Abraham, 76.; Watkins, 90+2.). Coach: Gareth Southgate
Hungary: Gulácsi – Kecskés, Lang, A. Szalai. – Nego (Bolla, 90+2.), Á. Nagy, Szoboszlai (Nikolics, 90+2.), Schäfer (Vécsei, 79.), Zs. Nagy. – Schön (Holender, 68.), Sallai (Hahn, 79.). Coach: Marco Rossi
Goals: J. Stones (37.), ill. Sallai (24. – pen)
As Poland defeated Albania in Tirana with a late goal (1-0), Hungary’s chances to arrive to the 2nd (play-offs qualifying) place of the group have decreased to almost zero. And the path through the Nations League (which also qualifies for the play-offs), the other way to bag the flight ticket to Qatar, seems to be virtually closed too at this point.
The current standing of group I (with two more fixtures to go):
- England 20 points
- Poland 17
- Albania 15
- Hungary 11
- Andorra 6
- San Marino 0
In the two remaining games to be played in mid-November, Hungary will clash with San Marino in Budapest, then travel to Warsaw in the closing round.
featured photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI