Under 21s look to build on encouraging autumn form
Our Under-21 national team played four European Championship qualifiers this autumn, garnering eight points in a unbeaten series of matches which has placed them in an advantageous position in their group.
Michael Boris' team were placed in the fourth pot for the qualifying stage draw earlier this year, so finding themselves in the same group as higher-ranked sides Sweden, Belgium and Turkey as well as comparative minnows Cyprus and Malta.
Clearly it would be a difficult task to progress from this stage but in making their best start to a U21 European Championship qualifying group since 1996, Hungary have gained eight points courtesy of victories over Cyprus and Malta and draws away in Turkey and at home to Sweden, a feat all the more impressive given that our squad is the youngest on average of the six teams with several players born in 1998, 1999 and 2000 being involved alongside those born in 1996 and 1997.
Amongst the older players on show, Dániel Sallói was receiving his first taste of international football at Under-21 level and he took his chance with aplomb, scoring one and setting up another in the 2-0 win in Cyprus. The Sporting Kansas City attacker spoke to MLSZ.hu in Hungarian about the game:
Goalkeeper in the same success, Patrik Demjén of MTK Budapest, also gave his verdict on the game, stating the hosts had surprised his team but that they recovered their composure in the second half and played as they had originally planned to:
"In the first half, the Cypriots attacked more than expected and surprised us a little with this but we got through this period and consistently improved our performance", Demjén explained. "In the second period, we organised our lines, improved in defence and from then on our game was in good shape. We can be happy with eight points from four matches but perhaps it could have been even better because we had our chances to win in the fixtures against Turkey and Sweden. At the start of the campaign, few would have counted on us still being on eight points and unbeaten after four matches and given Belgium, Turkey and Sweden have also dropped points, we can't be dissatisfied. The group has come together really well and has produced a superb team atmosphere, besides which we!re able to play effectively according to a variety of tactics, or rather we!ve quickly picked up what head coach Michael Boris has wanted us to do. We!d like to continue in a similar way in spring and give ourselves a chance of Euro qualification as we enter the final stages of the campaign".
András Szalai, born in 1998, echoed Demjén's sentiments regarding tactics playing a part in the team's recent success and that they had chances to win every match so far:
"We were slow to get started against Cyprus and didn't really settle on the pitch but in time we changed that. We countered their tactics well, for which we can thank our flexibility in terms of our game; we can easily play in formations such as 3-5-2, 3-4-3 and 4-3-3. We can be satisfied with eight points from four matches and if we stay on this road and continue to work hard, we can finish somewhere in the top two positions".
Nineteen year-old Szalai, who plies his trade as a central defender at club level for Mezőkövesd, is currently playing on the left side of midfield for the U21 national team and is becoming more and more confident in that position:
"Initially I had problems in the left-midfield position, mainly in terms of conditioning because I have to run a lot more here than as a central defender, but now I've reached match fitness in this respect and my performance is improving match by match. I played as a left midfielder at the start of my career so I'm not unfamiliar with the tasks of attackers either and I like to play in this position", Szalai stated confidently.