Leekens excited by first matches under his leadership
The FIFA and UEFA competition calendar gives men's national teams the opportunity to play friendly matches between 19th and 27th March and Hungary received numerous requests to play, the result of which sees George Leekens make his debut as Hungary head coach against Kazakhstan in front of a home crowd in the Groupama Aréna on 23rd March, a contest which will be followed by another fixture against Scotland in the same stadium four days later.
The Hungarian Football Fedration (MLSZ) announced this weekend that Hungary will take to the pitch at the Groupama Aréna on 23rd March at 19.00 against Kazakhstan before four days later, on 27th March, testing themselves against Scotland, also at the Groupama, from 20.00 that evening.
“Two very interesting matches await us in March, what with us starting with two home matches", noted new national team head coach Georges Leekens. "It will be a new beginning; that is, I don’t want to dwell on the past at all. We’ll be facing two opponents who will play a completely different style of game. Our opponents were picked with exactly this in mind, in order that we find out what the national team is capable of against as many styles of opponents as possible. Kazakhstan play a well-organised if defensive game, so here it is important for us to evaluate how we can realise our game plan against them because it’s always difficult to play against opponents who sit deep. Scotland play a completely different style of game, representing the ‘British’ style of football, and in addition, going by the seedings, represent a similar level of strength to Hungary. It’s important also to see what we can do also against a team who plays in this style and at this level”, Leekens explained to mlsz.hu, in answer to why these opponents have been selected.
The former Belgium national team coach then went on to talk about what is truly at stake in the two matches. “In these two matches it won’t be the result that’ll be the most important, but rather that we can see how the team is able to realise our game plan. The second important perspective is that during the two home matches the team succeed in winning over the supporters. This won’t just fall into our laps; the team needs to be deserving of this through the effort they put in, their resolve and their will to win. We need to play in a manner which we can be proud of the national team once more. Every sportsman or team can have a bad day; at such times the most important thing is to get up off the floor in an appropriate manner”, he added, emphasising that the next few months will also provide ample opportunity to ingratiate themselves with their home support.
Profiles of our next two opponents
Kazakhstan has had its own independent football association since 1991. Former USSR and Russia national team player Aleksandr Borodyuk is the current head coach, whilst two previous coaches who have previously held the position will be familiar to Hungarian fans – Bernd Storck (2008-2010), and Miroslav Beránek (2011-2013) who led the Czech Under-21 team to European Championship success and also worked at Debreceni VSC in the OTP Bank Liga.
Kazakhstan lie 135th in the FIFA world rankings, their squad made up entirely of domestically-based players, primarily for Astana – László Kleinheisler’s team – and Kairat Almaty, where Ákos Elek plies his trade.
Meanwhile, Hungary's second opponents in March, Scotland, is one of the two oldest national teams in the world, having played their first match on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent in Partick, Glasgow, in front of 4,000 spectators in the first official international match which ended in a 0-0 draw against England.
Scotland currently lie 32nd in the FIFA world rankings. Malky Mackay – who is also the SFA Performance Director – has been acting head coach since Gordon Strachan left the position in October 2017. Without exception, the squad members all play their football in Britain, the team primarily being comprised of players from Celtic, who regularly appear in the UEFA Champions League. Alongside them, ten players who play in the England’s Premier League took to the field in the recent World Cup qualification matches.
The Hungarian national team’s full schedule of matches for this year will be finalised after the draw for the UEFA Nations’ League on 24 January.