After a good start and clear domination, the Hungarian national team had difficulties against significantly lower-rated Andorra on Wednesday night, resulting in some anxiety and frustration in the final moments. Still, after two losses, a victory was finally achieved. The group’s other results, however, haven’t favored Hungary’s chances in the fight for the qualification for the Qatar World Cup.
After the starting whistle, it all seemed that a celebration awaited the 50,000 fans who chose to visit Puskás Aréna Wednesday night. Hungary was due to clash with one of the lowest-rated teams of the world after all, consisting of amateur players.
Indeed, two quick goals and permanent pressure from the Hungarian team appeared to be laying the foundation for a joyful night after the two recent, bitter defeats. Their domination, however, faded over time, and in the middle of the second half an invalid Andorran goal sent the message that the Hungarian team would have to step it up. However, they didn’t manage to do so, and after a valid score from the visiting team, a Hungarian victory was already in danger.
Symbolically enough, it was Hungary’s top star, Dominik Szoboszlai, who was purposely wasting time some minutes before the final whistle, while the opponents would have rushed for an equalizer.
“This was awful,” captain Ádám Szalai commented, refusing to go into detail about the game. “We had a completely different plan after a EURO like this. We said before the England and Albania games that we would only survive with 3 points. If there is one thing we can be happy about, it’s just these 3 points and the fans’ encouragement.”
The national team’s coach was not any less frustrated. “We had to pray in the last 10 minutes so that Andorra wouldn’t score another goal- this is totally unacceptable,” Marco Rossi commented, who at one point also said that he was “ashamed” after the final whistle. The Italian also promised consequences as certain players failed to follow his tactics and orders, he revealed, additionally criticizing the team’s concentration.
Hungary–Andorra 2–1 (2–0)
Budapest, Puskás Aréna, attendance: 50 000. Ref: Obrenovic (Slo)
Hungary: Dibusz – Botka (M. Tamás, 90.), Lang, A. Szalai, Fiola – Kleinheisler (Szoboszlai, in halftime), Á. Nagy. (Gazdag, 65.), Schäfer – Sallai (Sallói, in halftime), Á. Szalai, Schön (Nikolics, 74.). Coach: Marco Rossi
Andorra: Iker Álvarez – San Nicolás, Llovera, Emili García, Alavedra, Marc García – Aláez, M. Vieira (Cristian Martínez, 76.), Cervós (Alex Martínez, 76.) – Pujol (I. Lima, 80.), Ricard Fernández (V. Bernat, 80.). Coach: Koldo Álvarez
Goals: Á. Szalai. (9.-pen), Botka (18.), ill. Llovera (82.)
Unfortunately, the other fixtures of the groups haven’t inspired optimism either, as Hungary’s rivals for 2nd place of the group have all pocketed important point(s). True to the odds, Albania claimed a straight victory against San Marino (5-0), while Poland managed to equalize in the last minutes against England (1-1), putting Hungary in an even more difficult situation.
Group I after six games played:
- England, 16 points
- Albania, 12
- Poland, 11
- Hungary 10
- Andorra 3
- San Marino 0
There are four games to go in the group stage, the next one against Albania at home. Then the team is still due to travel to England and Poland too, meaning that reaching 2nd place in the group would be more of a wonder at this point. The other way for getting in the play-offs is through the Nations League where Hungary won its group last year. However, recent results in the other groups make this path look highly doubtful too.
featured image via Tamás Kovács/MTI