The term ‘dark horse’ is overused to the point of parody whenever a major tournament comes around. But if Hungary hadn’t landed in the proverbial group of death, then there is no doubting they’d be bearing the weight of that tag on their shoulders.
Marco Rossi’s team have been motoring along nicely since qualifying for a second straight European Championship for the first time in their history. They’re enjoying the best period of Hungarian international football since the 1980s, and they are undefeated in 11 games as they prepare to take on Portugal in Budapest.
That undefeated run may not last much longer, considering France and Germany lie in wait, but all they can do is try and get off to a winning start and see where it takes them. Easier said than done against the defending European champions, mind you.
Here is the lineup Rossi should start to give his team the best possible chance of causing an upset.
Peter Gulacsi (GK) – It doesn’t seem like so long ago Gulacsi was a fringe player at Liverpool, being farmed out to Hereford United to get some minutes. Now he’s one of the Bundesliga‘s most reliable keepers and he’s getting ready to star for his country at a major finals.
Attila Fiola (CB) – The Ferhevar defender isn’t an automatic starter but seems the obvious choice to slot in on the right of the back three Rossi has recently preferred.
Willi Orban (CB) – A shoo-in. The RB Leipzig man is the organiser at the heart of the Hungary back three and poses a real threat in both boxes – he already has five goals in just 21 caps.
Attila Szalai (CB) – The 23-year-old is already being linked with a big move away from Fenerbahce. A couple of promising performances against the elite teams in Group F and he could be coming to a Premier League club near you.
Gergo Lovrencsics (RWB) – His diligence on the right of the back five is a big part of what makes the system tick. Lovrencsics is a free agent after leaving Ferencvaros but he’ll find a new club soon – especially if he impresses with his country.
Laszlo Kleinheisler (CM) – Returned to the international fold in March amid an impressive season for Osijek and has made himself undroppable with his creativity. He’ll be the most advanced of the three centre-mids and will be looking to add to his three international goals.
Adam Nagy (CM) – The Bristol City man is the glue that binds the Hungary midfield and will need to be at his best here with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva to worry about.
Andras Schafer (CM) – With no Dominik Szoboszlai due to injury, Hungary will have to look elsewhere for a creative spark, and 22-year-old Schafer could help give them it. He got off the mark for his country against Cyprus recently and looks in good form.
Filip Holender (LWB) – There are a few players who could start on the left of the midfield five but Holender poses the biggest attacking threat. A striker by trade, he’s filled in there a few times and his directness helps drive his team forward.
Roland Sallai (CF) – The 24-year-old enjoyed a strong season with Freiburg with eight goals and six assists. He has just the four goals to his name after 22 caps but will be hoping to add a couple to that this summer.
Adam Szalai (CF) – Never doesn’t start. The Hungary captain is at the middle of everything and the big man’s leadership will be required if they are to pull off the impossible and survive the group of death.