Hungary Under-17s win La Manga tournament
Zoltán Szélesi’s Hungary Under-17 team have been preparing for their upcoming UEFA Elite Round qualification group which begins on 22 March by participating in the La Manga Cup tournament in Spain between 8 and 12 February, which saw the team face Sweden, Norway and Slovakia.
Hungary’s opening match against Sweden saw them fall behind in the first half but a change in formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 on the half-hour mark sparked a revival which produced a 37th-minute equaliser when Péter Beke converted a penalty after Gergely Kapronczai had been fouled. There were no further goals so both teams had to settle for a draw and one point each.
Next up were Norway, Szélesi’s team taking to the field in the 4-4-2 formation they’d reverted to in the draw against Sweden, but it proved difficult to break down opponents playing with a packed midfield and three at the back, so the game stood goalless at the break. The second half began with a quick exchange of goals, goalkeeper Ágoston Kiss sending a long ball forward for László Papp to put Hungary ahead before the Norwegians levelled almost immediately from the restart.
Hungary were more compact after switching to a three-man defence, albeit Norway took a 2-1 lead with a shot from just inside the box despite the best efforts of Kiss in goal. Hungary, though, restored parity through a 25-yard Kristóf Tóth-Gábor free-kick in the last minute of regular time before Marcell Papp scored from close-range in added time to secure a 3-2 win.
“There were a number of changes from the Sweden match. In part this was down to playing every second day and the importance of keeping the players fresh, as well as wanting to give everyone an opportunity to show what they can do. These matches give the coaching staff valuable experience as we find out who can be relied upon when it matters against strong opponents. Our opponents surprised us a little at the beginning with their three-man defence, but we adapted and at half-time we not only brought on like for like but Attila Belvon and I also decided to switch to three at the back. It was an intense match, hats off to the boys; not only because of our mentality and that we fought like a team, but also because we adapted brilliantly to the match situations. As I’ve said before, it isn’t the result that’s the most important but that our game is developing. In saying that, it’d be great to win the tournament; it would be important for the team too that their hard work should be accompanied by success”, commented head coach Zoltán Szélesi after the win over Norway.
Hungary’s final match saw them take on Slovakia on Monday afternoon knowing that if Sweden couldn’t defeat Norway, they could win the whole tournament with victory over their geographical neighbours. Szélesi’s team started well too, looking after the ball and displaying slick passing combinations which culminated in an 11th-minute free-kick from the left boot of Patrik Nyári which screwed around the defensive wall and into the near left corner of the net to give his team the lead.
Slovakia had been in good form recently too though and worked their way back into the game thanks to a deserved penalty before half-time. Parity would not last for long though, Gergő Irimiás tricking his way into the Slovak penalty area in the 49th minute and firing the ball into the centre of the goal via a slight deflection to re-establish his team’s advantage. Hungary’s opponents threatened to equalise again several times but couldn’t break through a solid defence. This 2-1 success combined with Norway’s 4-0 demolition of Sweden sees Hungary emerge as 2018 La Manga Cup victors.
“I think we can be satisfied with two wins and a draw and remaining unbeaten in a tough tournament. I’m particularly happy that our performances continually improved, that we persevered with our purposes of renewing and developing the team, that we continually formulated our team game and that we tried multiple formations too. With the help of Attila Belvon, we’re continually analysing not just the matches but the training sessions too in order to learn from every mistake while preparing to face our next opponent. We’ve been able to make strides forward in several areas but at the same time we still have our weaknesses which we have to improve upon.
I’m happy that we could give every player the chance to prove themselves during this tournament and while there were nice and not such nice surprises, these experiences will be useful for the coaching staff. The players’ performances will not just be analysed but concretely measured and followed by staff who will collect and analyse the results of measurements and experiences gained over the whole time.
In regard to the Slovakia match, it was an even match and we need to admit that a draw would perhaps have been a fairer result. Our goalkeeper Ásványi’s saves helped the team on several occasions but sometimes in football you need a bit of luck and we put a lot into it in order to for it to be this way. I congratulate the team and the whole staff for the tournament victory”, Szélesi concluded after the last match.
Hungary 2-2 Sweden
Norway 1-3 Slovakia
Hungary 3-2 Norway
Sweden 3-1 Slovakia
Hungary 2-1 Slovakia
Sweden 0-4 Norway
- Hungary 7 points (goal difference of 7-5)
- Sweden 4 points (goal difference of 5-7)
- Norway 3 points (goal difference of 7-6)
- Slovakia 3 points (goal difference of 5-6)
Balázs Ásványi (PFLA)
Ágoston Kiss (Illés Akadémia)
Benjámin Lakatos (DVSC)
Benedek Varju (MTK)
Marcell Farkas (DVTK)
Patrik Nyári (Illés Akadémia)
Kornél Szűcs (DVTK)
László Papp (PFLA)
Kristóf Vida (FTC)
Gergő Irimiás (Budapest Honvéd)
Tibor Csala (Csíkszereda)
Bence Máté Kocsis (PFLA)
Máté Kovács (MTK)
Bence Csávás (DVTK)
Gergely Kapronczai (MTK)
Marcell Papp (FTC)
Adrián Márton (SPAL)
Csaba Bukta (DVSC)
Kristóf Tóth-Gábor (Illés Akadémia)
Péter Beke (HSV)