Paternal influence guides Koman
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On target in the 2-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates that took his team through to the Round of 16, Hungarian midfielder Vladimir Koman had plenty of reasons to smile after the game. Making his father proud no doubt featured high up the list.

"What a fantastic feeling!" he exclaimed to following the encounter. "We know we're writing football history for our country. No Hungarian U-20 team has ever made it past the first round before. It's really a beautiful moment."

The sensations were doubly intense given the Magyars' calamitous start to the competition, in which they suffered a 3-0 loss to Honduras. Following that blow, the players had to dig extremely deep to bounce back with two consecutive successes.

In Koman's case, the timely revival came via some paternal advice. "I've only got one role model and that's my father," he said. "He's always honest and fair with me. After our opening defeat, he told me straight away that I'd been bad. He was right. It's also for him that I'm proud to have shown another side to myself since then."

Born in Ukraine on 16 March 1989, Koman is one of several players to have followed a footballing father into the game. Volodymyr Koman was a Ukrainian professional during the 1980s but plied his trade in an era before mass-media coverage of the game had permeated every corner of the globe - something his son hopes to make up for.

After our opening defeat, he told me straight away that I'd been bad. He was right. It's also for him that I'm proud to have shown another side to myself since then.
Vladimir Konan on his father

Having started out at Larko UFC and then Szombathelyi Haladas, Voli leapt at the chance to prove his worth in Italy in 2005. The youngster was brought through the Sampdoria youth system and made his Serie A debut just a few days after his 18th birthday, earning a starting berth against Torino and setting up Emiliano Bonazzoli for the winning goal.

Following that promising start, the unorthodox midfield orchestrator prospered during a loan spell at Avellino last term and is currently impressing at Bari, where he is also on loan. "I like to work in the shadows," explained the fan of Spanish international Xavi. "My role is to build moves out of defence. Sometimes you won't see me for a few minutes, then I show up where I'm least expected. That's my style."

That same style has made Koman an essential member of Hungary's U-20 side, and he is the team's natural leader. "I've been captain for a long time and because of that I'm even prouder of our results at the moment," he said. "We're a group of friends who've grown up together since the age of 14 or 15. Everyone says we're the best generation of footballers the country has produced for decades. That puts us under a lot of pressure but it also motivates us."

With the players having lived together for more than five years, it is hardly surprising to discover such an excellent atmosphere in the Hungarian camp - and despite his reluctance to stand out on the pitch, Koman does much to maintain that ambience. "I'm very active in my role as captain," he explained. "I talk a lot on the pitch but also away from it: during warm-ups and training sessions, but not only there. I never hesitate to speak with someone face-to-face when we're together. I'll go to see the player in his room and we talk."

The discussions are likely to have been very positive over the last few days at the team hotel in Alexandria, where Sandor Egervari's troops are preparing to face the Czech Republic in the Round of 16 on Tuesday. "We know this team well," added Koman. "We know it won't be an easy game, but I'm also certain that we'll have a chance. In any case, we want to win this tournament, so we'll have to start by winning this match."

Volodymyr would surely find much to admire in his son's ambitious approach.