There were plenty of disappointed faces in the Hungarian dressing room last Friday, after Romania equalised to make it 2-2 just before full time in their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying match. "It was a real body blow and the mood after the match was pretty downcast," Balazs Dzsudzsak told FIFA.com. "We lost our concentration and that meant that we let slip a precious victory."
The last time that Hungary qualified for a FIFA World Cup was in Mexico in 1986. Yet coach Sandor Egervari's men currently sit second in Group D behind the Netherlands and look well set to reach the European Zone play-offs, meaning that Gabor Kiraly was able to look on the bright side even after Friday's match.
"If we want to take the positives from this result, we could say that we kept Romania behind us in the table," said the keeper. "Nevertheless we are all aware that we missed a great opportunity."
Pieces of the puzzle in place
Despite this recent setback, Hungary have had more good days than bad in this qualifying campaign. Tuesday sees them play their second match with Turkey, this time away from home.
If they are to keep their noses in front of Romania, who are currently level on points but have to travel to Amsterdam that evening to take on the group leaders, the Hungarians know they need a result in Istanbul. What is more, they can take confidence from the fact that they beat Turkey 3-1 in Budapest last October.
"A draw would keep us in the race, but we've already won against Turkey and are looking forward to a repeat of that in Istanbul," said goal-getter Dzsudzsak. "Friday's late equaliser means that we obviously have to get points away from home, so why not do just that on Tuesday?"
Echoing that sentiment was Kiraly: "A win wouldn't guarantee second place, but the three points would see us take a really big step towards our goal," said the keeper, who has become something of a cult figure over the years.
Dzsudzsak and Kiraly both attribute Hungary's successful start to their qualifying campaign to a healthy dose of team spirit and a positive outlook throughout the squad. "A team is like a big jigsaw puzzle as far as I'm concerned," explained Hungary's most-capped custodian.
"All the pieces need to fit together and be in the right place, and then you get the full picture. And this is what we've got at the moment – our team spirit and mentality are second to none."
Dzsudzsak, meanwhile, is clearly a man hungry for success, just like the rest of the Hungary team: "I'm certain that we're not about to take our eye off the ball in the dying minutes again like we did last time. I generally never tend to be satisfied with my own performance and am always looking to improve, both personally and as regards the team overall."
Whether this team spirit will be enough to propel Hungary to the final phase of a FIFA World Cup for the first time in almost 30 years remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – it will not be for lack of effort on the part of Dzsudzsak. "Qualifying would mean everything to me!" the Dynamo Moscow striker said. "It would be the best thing ever to wear my country's shirt at a World Cup."
And the fact that the 2014 tournament is being held in Brazil is an additional source of motivation for Hungary's Footballer of the Year for 2010. "I played alongside Roberto Carlos at Anzhi Makhachkala and he told me a lot about his country. Brazil is the Mecca of football, and what he told me makes me even more determined to make sure that Hungary gets through to a World Cup again for the first time in 28 years."
The team's strong start in the group also means that the entire country has caught FIFA World Cup fever. "Hungary is behind us – we saw that during the last match. Even though it was played behind closed doors, we could feel the love of the fans throughout the match," said Kiraly of a positive vibe that has spurred the team on out on the pitch.
Dzsudzsak, for his part, thinks it is high time for Hungary to get back to world football's top table, a development he believes may lead to further improvements in the structure of the game in his country. "Everyone is waiting for the big breakthrough," he said, as the conversation concluded.
"We can feel just how desperate people are for us to do it, and we want to make them happy. I think that qualifying would give football in Hungary a real boost. Playing in a World Cup given today's standards would be on a par with 1954, when the great team we had at the time made the Final."