As one of the four play-off winners for Euro 2016, Hungary are preparing for their first major tournament since 1986.
While they do have some talented players in their squad, they remain outsiders. Could Hungary be the surprise of the tournament?
Route to Euro 2016
Hungary finished third in Qualifying Group F, behind Romania (second) and Northern Ireland (winners).
They lost their opening match to a high-flying Northern Ireland and their last match against Greece, when their place in the play-offs was already secure.
Despite losing just twice, the lack of goals proved to be a major issue, with only 11 in 10 matches. However, Hungary’s defence proved solid throughout and held firm during the 3-1 win in Norway in the play-off.
This performance was lit up in the return leg by a sensational opening goal by Tamás Priskin in an eventual 2-1 home win.
Hungary finished third in 1964 after losing to eventual winners and hosts, Spain, before beating the other losing semi-finalists, Denmark, to claim the bronze medal.
They lost to the Soviet Union at the same stage of Euro 1972 and went on to finish fourth, behind third-placed Belgium.
German Bernd Storck gained promotion from Hungary’s U-20 side in July 2015, with just four Group F games to go.
Since retiring as a player, Storck has spent most of his coaching career as an assistant – at Hertha BSC, FK Partizan Belgrade and his old club Borussia Dortmund. He then managed age group teams before taking the reins of the Kazakhstan national team for two years.
After getting the sack due to a run of losses against Austria, Turkey, Belgium and Germany in 2010, Storck then took charge of the U-21 squad at Olympiacos in Greece.
The Hungarian FA then hired him in 2013, with a view to revising their structures as a means of qualifying for Euro 2020. Storck documented his plans in ‘The Decade of Revival’.
He then began to undertake initiatives based on the player development models that are proving so successful in his native Germany.
After initially taking charge of Hungary’s senior national team on a temporary basis, his attacking style proved a success as he led the squad to their first international tournament since the 1986 World Cup, and received a full-time contract as a result.
Most important player
Captain, Balázs Dzsudzsák, has played for PSV Eindhoven, Debrecen, Anzhi Makhachkala, Dynamo Moscow and Bursaspor.
Despite being scouted by Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool and Roma, his only ‘big move’ came when the temporarily wealthy Anzhi Makhachkala signed him alongside Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos.
A typical Dutch-style left-winger, Dzsudzsák’s crossing ability and pace make him a danger to full-backs. It remains a wonder that at 29, a major club has yet to sign him.
To give you some idea of László Kleinheisler’s style and quality, his teammates for both club and country refer to the midfielder as “Scholes”.
This may be due in part to his ginger hair, but it should be said that Kleinheisler does make shots with the same vicious power as the Manchester United legend.
While not yet quite in the same league as Scholes, Kleinheisler covers more of the pitch and is a better tackler.
Despite not playing for his club, Videoton, at all this season due to a contract dispute, Hungary’s lack of goals persuaded Storck to pick Kleinheisler for the play-off against Norway – and the gamble paid off.
The young midfielder was clearly the best player on the pitch and made the difference to a team noted for its lack of potency in front of goal.
Alongside Austria, Hungary are another national squad that has improved beyond measure in recent years.
Of course, going into Euro 2016, Hungary have nothing to lose and everything to play for. However, here at Ladbrokes, we don’t think this will be enough to see them past the group stage and into the Round of 16.