Brother Cousins – Finland (Home) Preview

Elävä kala ui veden alla.

Eleven hal úszkál a víz alatt.

Hungarian and Finnish are loosely related languages: both members of the Finno-Ugric language family.  The above two sentences are about as close as they get to mutual comprehension though.  The living fish swims under the water.  However, if you ever see a Finn and a Magyar staring blankly at a dying fish at the side of the lake, you now know what to say.

Also, did you also know that every Finnish Embassy in the world houses a sauna?

It is that time for the first time since this blog got up and running:  international week.  And the Finns are coming to town.

Background

Let’s start with the basic facts that the Hungarian national team has not qualified for a major international tournament since 1986.  Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Latvia, Bosnia and even Scotland have all qualified in that time.  For a nation that produced one of the best teams to grace the hallowed turf, this is a shameful record.

Fortunately, a decision to expand the European Championships to 32 teams from 2016 onwards and an incredibly favourable group draw gave Hungary a genuine opportunity to mount a decent qualifying campaign.  Hungary’s group is:

Greece

Romania

Hungary

Finland

Northern Ireland

Faroe Islands

With the Top 2 to qualify automatically and the third to go into a play-off, Hungary kicked off the campaign with hope and realistic expectation (and also relief at avoiding the annual humiliation to the Netherlands).

Hungary’s first game was at home to fifth seed team, Northern Ireland.  Never have I been to a stadium with a more toxic atmosphere.  The Hungarian fans were on the players’ backs after twenty minutes against a compact, well-organised NI team.  For someone who has frequented White Hart Lane, the atmosphere was pretty poisonous.  Hungary took the lead, but two late NI goals meant an Ulster party (although half the stadium seemed to leave in disgust after the equaliser.)  The manager (Pinter) lost his job after the game to be replaced on a temporary five-game basis by Dardai Pal, Hertha Berlin U17 manager.

 

A ‘spirited’ derby in Bucharest followed with Dzsudzsak scoring a belter of a freekick (after the Hungarian central midfield decided that tracking runners was for idiots) to let Romania score the softest of openers.  The game was marred by crowd trouble that resulted in UEFA fining both Football Associations and ordering part of each teams’ stadiums to be closed for the next home game.  Given MLSZ reluctance to release any tickets on sale to travelling Finns until a few weeks beforehand, it could be suggested that they were expecting much worse.

 

Hungary managed to pop the optimism bubble immediately with a drab 0-1 victory in Torshavn.

 

Given Northern Ireland’s flying start away from home (with a win in economic basket case of Europe to follow on from victory in Budapest), it looks increasingly likely that Hungary are fighting it out with Greece and Romania for two of the three spots making this game a must win.  Greece come to Budapest in March and Hungary need to be targeting six points from these two games before facing three tricky away ties in the second half of qualification.  Victory might also give Dardai/persuade him to take a full-time role and avoid the need the trawl around Europe to find the new Lothar Mathaus or Erwin Koeman.

Team

With at least half of Hungary’s starting XI playing overseas, I have not become hugely familiar with the international team, but I will try my best to give a decent overview of the players that will be involved on Friday night.  I apologise in advance for any mistakes.

I expect Hungary to play a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 or a version thereof depending on how the game is progressing.

Goalkeeper

“Who is that clown in pyjamas?” is probably a sentence that has been heard a few times when Kiraly Gabor has lined-up in the English Premier League.  The grey pyjamas are a lucky item of clothing from a particularly cold day in the distant past.  Kiraly had his moments in the Premier League, but at the age of 39 (and with a certain MTK goalkeeper playing out of his skin) surely, I would like to think, that he is towards the end of his international career.  However, with 91 caps and just one behind Laszlo Fazekas (no stadium!) and ten behind Bozsik Joszef (stadium), he may just cling on a little longer for sentimental reasons.

 

Bogdan Adam (once named the Most Ginger Goalkeeper ever to have played in England (possibly)) and young Dibusz Denes of Ferencvaros make up the squad.  Dibusz made his debut last time out so could start.

No idea what Hegedus Lajos has to do to get a call-up.  He is in the form of his life and is without doubt the best goalkeeper in Nemzeti Bajnoksag I (I may be bias).

Defence

Seems to be Hungary’s core problems in recent years whether it is a combination of nerves and lack of big match temperament (see the previous 3-0 defeat in Romania at the end of the previous campaign) or lack of technique (see the 8-1 defeat in the Netherlands at the end of the previous campaign).

 

Big fan of the Dutch sixth goal.

Steady if unspectacular (at this level) Juhasz Roland (Vidi captain) provides one of the centre backs with young Lang Ádám likely to start alongside him. Kadar Tamas (remember him Newcastle fans?) to play on the left.  The right back slot is an interesting one. Varga Jozsef excelled at Middlesborough playing right back, but was eventually sold because the manager considered it detrimental to the player’s development to play there long-term.  From what I have seen, he plays a holding midfield role at Debrecen and has performed that role for Hungary too.  For what it is worth, he has never impressed in the holding role, too often getting caught on the wrong-side.  If Jozsi does play in midfield then it will be a toss-up between Fiola ‘not Italian’ Attila and all time good guy Poor Patrick.

Midfield

If Jozsi starts at right back, then Elek Akos and Tozser Daniel will provide the anchors in midfield.  I like Elek from what I have seen of him and an ever more impressive Diosgyor team although he is certainly not going to be a creative powerhouse.  Tozser Daniel of Watford provides a little more finesse and also takes a mean free kick if he can ever get the ball out of the hands of…

Dzsudzsak Balazs (captain).  He was (and possibly could still have) real talent.  He was one Europe young stars at PSV, but followed the money and moved to Anzhi.  A brief spell at the clown club that was Anzhi (and a mere eight appearances) saw him move to Dinamo Moscow for reported €19mn and even more of the high life that Moscow offers.  Speculation about his commitment to training and passion for fast cars and good times (earning over EUR 2.5mn a year does that to you) has been touted as one reason why he has never hit the top of his game.  His desire for Hungary is without doubt though.  It would be great to see him play in one of Europe’s big league so that he really can reach his potential.  Expect him to start on the wing.

Gera Zoltan will probably take the advanced central position.  He was a great player.  Now I am not so sure.  He has not really done much since his return to Hungary and at the age of 34 (or 35), I think there are better options available to Hungary.  Kanta Jozsef for one or even throw the position to one of the young guns such as Kalmar Zsolt or Rado Andras (I think the terrible pitch and teammates did not help him on Sunday when I saw him).

I expect to see Stieber or Lovrencsics on the other wing.  To be honest, I know nothing about these guy other than one plays in Hamburg and the other in Poland.  Youngsters Gyurcso Adam (not progressed so well) and Simon Kristián (could do well – see the Ujpest preview) may also figure at some point, but doubt that they will start.

Striker

Hungary may start with two upfront with Szalai guaranteed to start (since his return from exile (after a falling out with the ex-,ex-manger).  If Hungary do go with two up top then either Elek or Tozser will probably drop out (although I would prefer to see Gera gone) and Nikolic (the man who cannot stop scoring except against Kecskemet (haha)) or Priskin will fight it out for the other spot.

 Prediction

 Difficult one this.  I will go with a scrappy 2-1 with Hungary seeking revenge for the friendly defeat in March this year.  Most important thing here is three points.  Special shout out for the Ayrshire wizard, Alexei Eremenko.  I expect him to slot a consolation free kick following a Nikolic brace.

Hajra Magyarok!!

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