WOMEN’S FOOTBALL: STEADY PERFORMANCES AT YOUTH LEVEL WHILE YOUNGSTERS REACH SENIOR TEAM
The Hungarian women’s Under-17 and Under-19 teams both had a encouraging 2018, neither qualifying for their respective European Championship finals from their elite round groups, but both giving themselves anoth chance of progression from this stage in 2019. Rebuilding for the future was one of the main objectives for the senior national team, head coach Edina Markó giving the opportunity to many youngsters to prove themselves with the 2021 European Championship qualifiers on the horizon.
The Hungarian women’s Under-17 team won one and lost two of their three elite round matches in the spring, losing 2-0 to Italy before defeating the Czech Republic 3-0 – thanks to goals from Dorottya Czellér, Vanessza Nagy and Fanni Vachter – and succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to Serbia in their final fixture, a result which meant they finished third in their group.
In the autumn, the team successfully manoeuvred their way through their qualification round mini group in Skopje which contained hosts Macedonia, Bosnia Hercegovina, and France. Emőke Pápai scored the only goal in a crucial 1-0 victory in the opening match against Bosnia before a 4-1 victory in the second against Macedonia ensured their progression to the elite round for the sixth time in a row, the 3-1 reverse against France in the final group match being immaterial. Next up, beginning on 21 March, is an elite round group on home soil against England, Greece and Georgia.
The Hungarian women’s Under-19 team had a similar year in terms of achievement. Two warm-up defeats to Finland were followed by home and away victories over Slovakia, before the elite round matches against Sweden, Slovenia and the Netherlands. The Dutch stood out from the rest, comfortably defeating Slovenia in their opening match whilst Sándor Turtóczki’s Hungary held the Swedes to a solitary goal. Two goals from Katalin Tolnai put a stubborn Slovenia team to the sword, a draw in the match between the Netherlands and Sweden setting up a qualification decider against the Oranje. This proved too big a scalp for Hungary, and although holding their opponents to 0-0 at half-time, they were outpowered by a scintillating second-half Dutch display, conceding six without reply. Like their Under-17 counterparts, third place in the group was secured.
The qualification round for the 2019 finals saw Hungary pitted against Moldova, Macedonia and Finland in Dabas and Üllő. They brushed Macedonia aside by 6-0 in their opening fixture, with Sára Pusztai, Lily Anna Farkas, Virág Kovács, Vivien Pintye and Viktória Bódai all on the score sheet. A 9-0 success against Macedonia in the second match ensured the team’s participation in the elite round come spring 2019, the team scoring eight second-half goals as Viktória Bódai, Lily Anna Farkas, Laura Kovács, Fanni Vachter and Sára Pusztai all found the net. A 7-0 defeat against group favourites Finland in the final match perhaps took some of the gloss off a solid campaign, but nevertheless, the under-19s now travel to Spain in April for an elite round group which also contains Ireland and Serbia.
For the seniors the year began with its customary participation in the Cyprus Cup, where the team fell 2-0 to North Korea 2-0 before losing 1-0 to South Africa, drawing 1-1 with Slovakia, and losing 2-0 to Finland. The first competitive match of 2018 came against highly-fancied Sweden in a World Cup qualifier in Szombathely. 2-1 down, the team pushed for an equalising goal but eventually succumbed to two late Swedish sucker-punches in a 4-1 defeat. Four days later, Edina Markó’s team faced Croatia away, Fanni Vágó and Zsanett Jakabfi twice getting the goals as Hungary recorded an impressive 3-1 victory.
A 5-1 reverse away to an exceedingly strong Denmark side in June was followed by the Balaton Cup, the sixth edition of the tournament in Balatonfüred presenting the opportunity to blood several youngsters, Kinga Boros, Patricia Fél and Fanni Vachter all making their first team debuts. A 4-1 defeat against a full-strength Romania saw Hungary play a third-place play-off against Belarus, the visitors triumphing on penalties following a 1-1 draw. Hungary’s final World Cup qualifier came on 4 September, a 2-0 defeat seeing Hungary, fourth seeds, finish fourth in the group behind Sweden, Denmark, and their eastern neighbours.
2019 will be an action-packed year in women’s football, with club sides beginning the year with the indoor championship on 12 and 13 January, the final and third-place playoff being broadcast live on TV. Participants in Székesfehérvár are Ferencváros, MTK, Haladás-Viktória, Astra, ETO, Szent Mihály, MLE, and second-division MOL Vidi. The UEFA Women’s Champions League final will be held in Budapest’s Groupama Aréna in May, the first time the final will be held at a venue independent from the men’s event. One of the quarter-final pairings pits Wolfsburg – Zsanett Jakabfi’s club – against Lyon, whose ranks include Germany national-team player Dzsenifer Marozsán, who is of Hungarian descent.
The Hungarian women’s national team will find out on 21 February who their Women’s Euro 2021 qualification opponents will be. Hungary will be third seeds, the group winners and three best runners’ up from the nine qualification groups joining hosts England in the finals, and three of the remaining six runners-up joining them by way of the playoffs.
First seeds: France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy
Second seeds: Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, Russia, Wales, Ukraine, Finland, Czech Republic
Third seeds: Portugal, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, HUNGARY, Bosnia Hercegovina, Belarus
Fourth seeds: Turkey, Slovakia, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Greece, Israel, Kazakhstan, Albania, Moldova
Fifth seeds: Faroe Islands, Malta, Macedonia, Estonia, Montenegro, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Kosovo