Leekens: The smallest detail could be decisive
National team head coach Georges Leekens held a press conference in Telki after the draw for the UEFA Nations League, during which he underlined the necessity of hard work if the team are to develop. He also stated he'd be relying solely on players who are fully committed because an international call-up is a responsibility rather than a gift and the national team's supporters cannot be fooled.
The draw for the inaugural UEFA Nations League was made in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday, with Hungary being placed in the same group as Greece, Finland and Estonia. Georges Leekens held a press conference in Telki on Thursday, and this is what he had to say:
“I’m happy that we’ve been drawn in a group of four and not three. It’s a very finely balanced group; the teams are of a similar strength even if the styles they play are different. I managed to speak with our opponents’ representatives after the draw so I have fresh information about all three teams we’ll be facing. We have also started video analysis of their recent matches. The opening match away to Finland will be exceedingly important; we must be up to speed by September because a few days later we play Greece at home, an opponent which possesses numerous technical players who play at a high level. Unfortunately, due to events at the Hungary vs Romania match in 2015, the game will be behind closed doors, which will be a huge disadvantage even if it was beneficial that due to the MLSZ appeal it wasn’t the Euro 2016 play-off against Norway when the punishment had to be served. I’m happy that we play our last two matches in such an evenly balanced group at home, as it will be then that we especially need the backing of our supporters. We’ll have to be at our very best if we are to be competitive”.
Leekens then turned his attention to the two friendly matches arranged for the spring. “Players need to undertake the responsibility of playing in the national team shirt; they must work hard and give their all for success. It’s a fresh start; we need to build ourselves up together from here. We have matches against Kazakhstan and Scotland in March and another two games pencilled in for June against as-yet unknown opponents. Until then we’ll be paying attention to how the domestic championship pans out, how well our foreign-based players perform, to the Under-21 team players and also to our opponents. We need to collect as much information as possible because the smallest detail could be decisive. This task is very important to me; my family are also aware of it and this is why my wife has followed me to Hungary in order that I can concentrate fully. We’d like to develop, to step forward; we need to improve our game and our mentality if we are to be successful internationally. A call-up to the national team isn’t a gift; it has to be deserved. Everyone must fight for the jersey and for each other. This is the minimum that everyone must do. You can’t fool the supporters; but if we work hard and fight for every ball, then they too will value our endeavours even if not everything is perfect right from the first match. We must take on board the criticism but it is our goal that with hard work, passion and will to win, together we will achieve success”.
Replying to a journalist’s question, Leekens emphasised that in the interests of developing there must be no difference attached to the various different matches, be they European Championship qualifiers, Nations League matches or friendlies; indeed, the team must take the field even in the warm-up matches as if it were a Champions League final. The important thing is to always focus on the task at hand. “We must remain modest, but alongside that, progress and advancement must be the only things in our minds. We need to set ourselves goals and do all that we can to achieve them. Every player will have an opportunity, and it’ll be up to them to make the most of it; not just in the national team, but they also need to be regular starters for their club sides. I will only be counting on those who do all they can to break into the squad; those who build, inspire, and strengthen the group”, he said.
Leekens then went on to talk about finalising his coaching staff in the coming weeks. “The easiest would have been if I bring staff from Belgium to work beside me but that’s not the way I work. I need assistants who know the Hungarian football culture, are professionally committed, humble and are able to work in a team. I’m not an easy character; I work fanatically and I expect this from others too; it’s my conviction that this is what is required if we are to develop. At the same time, it is also important for the MLSZ and me that these should be Hungarian professionals”, the former Belgian national team head coach concluded.