Men's national team: Regeneration the aim after a challenging 2018
With the team without a victory from their first four fixtures of 2018, head coach George Leekens was replaced by Marco Rossi – a previous Hungarian championship winner with Honvéd – in June. The Italian led his new-look Hungary to second place in their UEFA Nations League group so the main task for 2019 will be an impressive showing in the European Championship qualifiers.
The Hungarian men’s national team didn’t have the best of starts to 2018, losing 3-2 at home to Kazakhstan and 1-0 to Scotland in March, and then drawing 1-1 away to Belarus and suffering another home defeat – this time 2-1 – at home to Australia in June. With three defeats and one draw from four friendly matches as head coach, Belgian Georges Leekens left his post by mutual consent on 19 June.
Leekens was replaced by Italian Marco Rossi from DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda of Slovakia in time for the start of the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Two fixtures in September brought an unlucky 1-0 defeat against future group-winners Finland in Tampere, before a 2-1 behind-closed-doors victory over Greece at the Groupama just days later. Roland Sallai scored a spectacular opener and although Kostas Manolas equalised not long after, a long-range László Kleinheisler strike brought Hungary their first win of the year and with it renewed hope.
October saw the arrival of RB Leipzig’s Willi Orbán to the squad, albeit the next two Nations League fixtures saw the team pick up only one point, unluckily going down 1-0 in Athens to Greece before scrambling to a 3-3 draw in Tallinn against Estonia with Ádám Szalai scoring twice on his 50th national-team appearance. Hungary completed their Nations League group with two home victories in November as they finished second in their group. First, a 2-0 victory over Estonia thanks to an early header from newcomer Willi Orbán and a second-half opportunist’s strike from Szalai, before rounding off the year with another two-goal victory, this time against Finland with another goal from Szalai followed up by Ádám Nagy’s first-ever goal for the national team.
Next up for Rossi’s rejuvenated team are the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers. Hungary have been drawn in a tough group, facing Croatia, Slovakia, Wales and Azerbaijan as they seek to qualify for a Euro 2020 in which four matches will be played at the new Puskás Aréna in Budapest. The qualifiers begin in March with an away fixture in Trnava against Slovakia before Croatia are guests at the Groupama Aréna. June sees a trip to Azerbaijan before Wales come to Budapest, Slovakia following suit in September. Two matches in October see Hungary travelling to Croatia before hosting fellow Euro 2020 co-hosts Azerbaijan, before the team completes their campaign in November away to Wales.