Budapest, Hungary – It’s just a few weeks until Euro 2020 (June 11 – July 11), and the most improved side in international football, Hungary, will have one of the most daunting tasks of the tournament – playing in the so-called “group of death” against Germany, France and Portugal. On the face of it, it’s a horrendous draw for Hungary – the reigning world champions, the winners of the previous World Cup and the reigning European champions. It would be difficult to design a tougher draw for Marco Rossi and his players.
But France, Portugal and Germany will not – or at least, should not – take Hungary lightly. All three teams have shown flaws of late, with Germany looking particularly vulnerable. North Macedonia traveled to Germany and came away with a 2-1 win in the recent World Cup Qualifiers, and Hungarian fans will surely be asking why they couldn’t do the same in the final fixture of Group F.
Hungary will also have home advantage in the games against Portugal (June 15) and France (June 19) before travelling to Munich on June 23 to face Germany. It’s debatable how much that advantage will give the team, although Hungary were impressive at home when qualifying for the tournament, getting decent wins over Croatia and Wales, for instance. Regardless, it’s clear Rossi would choose to play at the Puskas Arena rather than travel to Paris or Lisbon.
Szoboszlai could return in time
Of course, Hungary can’t wholly depend on poor performances from France, Germany or Portugal. But Rossi will have confidence that his team can hold their own. And, Hungary might have a not-so-secret weapon. Aidan Perkins, writing in the MansionBet Blog for Group F at Euro 2020, spoke of the importance of Dominik Szoboszlai to the team. The 20-year-old playmaker – considered one of Europe’s hottest prospects – has not appeared in 2021 for club or country, but he is back in training with Red Bull Salzburg. The timing couldn’t be better for Rossi.
But let’s be realistic. As Perkins pointed out, the draw is “brutal”. Hungary, in fact, have the highest odds of any team at Euro 2020 to top their group. But, again, that’s a testament to the opposition rather than an improving Hungary team. The good news is that a third-place finish might be enough to qualify for the Last 16. But that’s going to require at least one victory, and perhaps another point to make sure. Three points from one of the two home fixtures is possible, and that would mean going to Germany to get a point – or at least avoiding a heavy defeat. Again, it’s very possible.
Fatigue will play a role at the Euros
One factor that is perhaps overlooked is the level of fatigue that will be felt by players involved in the Euros this season. France, Germany and Portugal, all of whom have players involved in the Europa League and Champions League Finals, will surely see fatigue as an impact. The warm-up games for the Euros begin just a few days after the Champions League Final – it’s going to be tough on some players.
Consider, for example, Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes, who has already played 54 times for Manchester United this season, and who will play a part in United’s remaining Premier League games and Europa League Final. Compare Fernandes to the majority of players in the Hungary squad playing in NB 1. The league has already finished, giving players – and Rossi – more than a month to prepare for the tournament. For Rossi and his team, it is something of a free hit.
Nobody, including the bookmakers, expects Hungary to top the group, or even qualify. But there should be a whiff of an upset here, and maybe even the chance to see Hungary flourish. Nobody thought Hungary would top the group at Euro 2016 – ahead of Portugal – and this is a more accomplished side. So don’t rule it out again, even if the task is a much more difficult one.