Over 60,000 fans will flock to the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon tomorrow as the Seleção aim to take another step towards qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
For the second time in less than a year, Fernando Santos and his team are facing a crunch game against Hungary, who so nearly brought Portugal’s Euro 2016 tournament to a premature end in the memorable 3-3 draw in Lyon last June.
What can the Seleção expect from Bernd Storck’s team? To find out PortuGOAL talked to Hungarian football journalists Tomasz Mortimer and Rita Kamocsai.
PortuGOAL: Hungary positively surprised many people at Euro 2016. Has the team built on that successful tournament or gone backwards since then? How do you rate this Hungary team?
A few Hungarians have kicked on following the tournament. Adam Lang, Roland Sallai, Adam Nagy, Peter Gulacsi, Adam Szalai are all getting regular minutes in Europe’s top leagues which they weren’t last season, Tamas Kadar is now playing for Dynamo Kiev when before he was playing in Poland but Hungary’s performances haven’t been very encouraging since the Euro.
The loss to Switzerland in Budapest was unfortunate, and could easily have gone the other way on a different day, however the draw away in the Faroe Islands was really worrying. The passing was sloppy, there was very little creativity and defensively Hungary were shaky too and could’ve lost. On paper Hungary seem to have improved, but on the pitch it looks like they’ve regressed.
PortuGOAL: Ones to watch - who are Hungary’s star players?
Adam Nagy is Hungary’s best player, for sure - he was actually rested for the 3-3 draw with Portugal in the Euro. The way he keeps the ball is fantastic and he’s brilliantly defensively too. He’s Hungary's midfield metronome. Balázs Dzsudzsák, like in the Euro, will be Hungary’s biggest threat going forward, his left foot is fantastic, and his ability to work his way into a shooting position is what makes him so dangerous. He’s also fantastic at set pieces too, and as always, he’s the one to watch.
PortuGOAL: Strong points/weak points. What must Portugal beware of and what can they exploit?
Hungary’s defence is always the worry. Adam Lang hasn’t been in the best of form for Dijon this season, and he’s Hungary’s best defender in this squad. Who plays beside him is a toss up between Tamas Kadar and Paulo Vinicius. Kadar is probably more likely to play at left back where he plays for Dynamo, so that’ll mean the Brazilian born Paulo Vinicius will get his first start. It’ll be a huge test for him, one he’d have never experienced before playing in Hungary. He also doesn’t speak Hungarian, which could be a problem too. But he would be able to listen in on any secret Portuguese tactics on the field so every cloud...
PortuGOAL: Formation and playing style – what system do Hungary usually play? Would you describe them generically as an attacking or a defensive team?
Almost always 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 hybrid. It’s the system that’s used throughout the Hungarian system from U17s to the senior team these days. Definitely an attacking team, and it’s wise considering how shaky Hungary’s defence is. This Hungary side like to keep the ball, and with Adam Nagy in the side they have the perfect base on which to build that possession based football.
PortuGOAL: Mood in the camp – judging by player/coach quotes regarding this game, do you think Hungary come into it in a confident frame of mind?
They are confident, and they have a very relaxed mindset. The players have a great togetherness and they’re a humble, hungry bunch and to go to the European champions is an exciting test for them. The 3-3 draw from the Euro has been spoken about a lot, and considering Hungary rested five of their best players that day, and still gave Portugal a real run for their money has given Hungary a real belief that they get something from this game.
PortuGOAL: What is the Hungarian media saying about the match? Has there been a lot of talk about the incredible Euro 2016 match?
Yes, as alluded to above it’s been spoken about a lot. I think the media see it as a free game as it were. Realistically, Hungary need to win the game if they want to qualify, but the media acknowledge it will be tough, and there’s no real pressure on the boys to come back with a result. The focus is very much on the future at the moment, and if Hungary can put in a spirited, dogged performance, which they have never failed in doing under Bernd Storck, then they will be happy.
PortuGOAL: What do you think the result of the game will be?
I think Portugal will win 3-1. I think Portugal’s quality will be too much for Hungary’s defence. I don’t think Hungary will be outclassed, rather beaten by individual moments of class which Hungary will be unable to respond to.
Our thanks to Tomasz Mortimer (Twitter: TMortimerFtbl).
Journalist Rita Kamocsai is in Lisbon covering the game for Hungarian newspaper Kisalföld. She shared her thoughts with PortuGOAL.
“There’s a really good mix of experienced players and young talented players in the team. Our captain Balázs Dzsudzsák is the big star. The goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi is a talented, self-confident and strong player, and Zoltán Gera, although 37, is still going strong for Hungary and Ferencváros and he is a leader.
“Because of this game there’s been a lot of focus on the 3-3 draw at the Euros. Looking back at history, Portugal is the only team Hungary has played against 10 times or more and never beaten – only defeats or draws. So it’s a bad record, but maybe this is our time.
“What will the result be on Saturday? If you ask me as a journalist I have to say the Champions of Europe are the stronger team and have players like Ronaldo and Renato Sanches, so of course they have a better chance (of winning).
“But if you ask me as a Hungarian I think we will play a very attractive game with a lot of energy and a lot of patience, and whether we win, draw or lose I believe the supporters who travel to the stadium will be happy because we will play the way we like to. I don’t believe Hungary will be a defensive team.”
Our thanks to Rita Kamocsai (Twitter: KRita0425).