The Hungarian national team has been drawn with England, Poland, Albania, Andorra, and San Marino for the qualification to the upcoming 2022 World Cup. As only 13 European teams will have the chance to hit the field at the No.1. international football event, qualifying is an even bigger deal than the Euro qualification.
It was back in 1986 when the Hungarian national team was among the participants of the World Cup for the last time. Although the number of participants have since been extended to 32 teams, qualifying is still a lot harder than for the European Championships, as the number of European participants hasn’t increased since. As a result, besides the groups’ best teams, only three others can qualify for the most prestigious tournament.
The Hungarian team was put in Pot 3, meaning they would be drawn with two higher ranked teams. After a few minutes it turned out that Hungary would join Group I with England and Poland (from Pot 1 and Pot 2, respectively) having already been there.
Hungary hasn’t faced England for ten years now. If we take a look at the past 15 years, we find two games with two defeats. England is a tough opponent, for sure, a team that usually tops its group during the qualification phase. England is the group’s top favorite, the semifinalist of the previous World Cup, and ranked No. 4. in FIFA’s World Ranking at the moment.
Although the overall balance against Poland is positive, it is mainly history. Now Poland is without a doubt, ranked much higher (19th in the world) than Hungary. It was back in 2011 when the two nations’ teams clashed for the last time, with Poland proving better (2-1). In the previous World Cup, the Polish team finished third in their group.
Although there were periods recently when Albania produced some outstanding results (Euro participation in 2016, for example), they have never managed to beat Hungary, a tendency that Marco Rossi’s team should keep if it wants to be in for the qualification.
Both games against Andorra and San Marino are certainly obligatory victories, even if Andorra shocked both international and domestic football fans by beating Hungary 1-0 in 2017 in the previous WC-qualifier. In addition, San Marino has never managed to score even one goal against Hungary, and is the very last (210th) in the world rankings.
According to National Team Coach Marco Rossi, luck has once again sidestepped him, although the group is “moderately strong.” “Let’s be honest, there’s a big difference between England and Hungary, but the Polish aren’t that much better than us to go off the field with our hands held up. I think anything can happen against them, especially if we have the same excellent attitude that we have had over the last three months,” he said. “I can promise you one thing: we will be as prepared as possible for all the matches and we will do our best to succeed,” he added.
Should the Hungarian team fail to win this group or come in second, there is still one more potential path remaining to qualify for the play-off, as two more teams will be added to from the Nation’s League as well. And since Hungary overcame Serbia, Turkey, and Russia, it has a good chance for the play-off this way. The only condition of this is that either Wales or Austria should grab the first two spots in their groups, something that the draw offers good chances for, as neither Austria nor Wales is in a particularly difficult group.
The play-off, however, wouldn’t be an easy ride either. The 12 teams (the ten second-place teams and two from the Nation’s League) will be drawn into three play-off paths, playing two rounds of single-match play-offs (semi-finals and finals), with only the three path winners qualifying for the World Cup.
The first World Cup 2022 qualification matches come as early as the end of March, hopefully in front of fans.
featured image via Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI