May 27, 2016

    Hungary hungry for success after 3 decades in the wild


    FOR the best side in the world in the early 1950s when Puskas, Kocsis, Hidegkuti and company were in their prime, it has been downhill all the way since.

    Hungary's current crop is a pale shadow of even the 1980s teams, boasting no major star or even any regular first-teamers in the top five European leagues.

    The nation's football-mad premier, Viktor Orban, has pumped millions of dollars into the game in a bid to resurrect the glory days, and green shoots are slowly appearing.

    Uniquely in Eastern Europe, shiny new stadia are being built nationwide while qualification for France has already seen an increase of scouts in Hungarian football.

    Promising youngsters like Adam Nagy, 20, of Ferencvaros are expected to move abroad after the Euros.

    Although technically limited, Hungary have been well-organised and difficult to beat since Pal Dardai and now Bernd Storck took over.

    With a defence anchored by sweatpants-wearing goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly, the team's creative heart beats around captain Balazs Dzsudzsak and the terrier-like Laszlo Kleinheisler.

    Written off by pundits and likely to be underestimated by opponents, the Magyars' hunger for success after three decades in the wilderness could see them sneak a surprise result in France.

    While success-starved Hungarian fans are praying that the players will rise to the occasion, some fear their lack of big tournament nous may see them freeze when they finally take to the big stage.

    Solid defensively, for goals the side are over-reliant on free-kicks by Dzsudzsak and bulky centre-forwards like Bundesliga side Hoffenheim's Adam Szalai, currently on loan to Hannover 96.

    Szalai has been off-form all season though while Storck's other options up front all ply their trades for modest Eastern European outfits.