Hungarian expectations high after 34-year hiatus
Hungary getting ready for FIFA U-17 World Cup
First appearance since 1985
"Chance of a lifetime"
Hungary has had its share of world class footballers in the past—names like Ferenc Puskas, Gyula Grosics and Sandor Kocsis spring readily to mind—but the days of finishing runners-up at the FIFA World Cup™ are now well in the past.
Over recent decades, Hungarian football has been in the doldrums, with the country patiently waiting for another "golden generation" that will be able to fight it out with the best on the international stage.
Hungary’s most recent FIFA finals appearances
FIFA World Cup: 1986 (group stage)
FIFA U-20 World Cup: 2015 (round of 16)
FIFA U-17 World Cup: 1985 (quarter-final)
Olympic Football Tournament: 1996 (group stage)
Expectations are therefore incredibly high with the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 just a few weeks away. This will be the first time that Hungary is taking part in 34 years—the longest break between two appearances of any country.
"For the players, the coaches and for Hungarian football in general, it’s a real success story," said head coach Sandor Preisinger. "At the European championships we were outsiders but we believed in ourselves, worked hard and achieved something incredible. I’m sure that lots of my players will go on to swell the ranks of the full international team in the years to come." Preisinger went on to speak of his memories as a player at the 1996 Olympic Football Tournament in Atlanta.
"It was a very special experience—we played the two strongest teams in the tournament, Nigeria and Brazil. West, Okocha, Kanu, Amokachi and the like won the title, while Brazil had Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto and Dida in their squad, who all went on to be superstars.
"The Olympics gave my career the boost it needed and helped me to become a better player. And this is exactly what I’m hoping will be the case with these lads who’ll be playing in Brazil. This World Cup could prove to be a milestone for them."
Goalkeeper Krisztian Hegyi, defender Roland Bekker and striker Andras Nemeth are names worth keeping an eye on for the future. They were the stand-out trio at the UEFA U-17 European Championships, and much is expected of them to be the spine of the team in South America.
"We could tell that the fans back home in Hungary were proud of us after the Euro and that was a great feeling. We want to do the same again in Brazil," said Nemeth. The attacker is very much the star of the squad and is already in and around the first-team squad for Belgian top-flight outfit KRC Genk.
Ambition? "To play in the Premier League!" Favourite player? "Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City."
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While the anticipation, the expectations and the pressure ahead of the world tournament are all immense, Preisinger is not giving his charges a moment’s respite.
"We’re the outsiders once again and we need to be aware of that. We want to go as far as we possibly can. A chance like this comes along once in a lifetime, and I hope we can grab it with both hands. If we can get through the group stages then anything is possible.
"Brazil will be great hosts. The whole country loves football so the atmosphere throughout the tournament should be unique. I’m sure that we’ll see great matches, strong teams and some incredible individual performances at this World Cup."
For Nemeth and his team-mates, the serious business starts on 26 October when they take on the country which has had the most success at this level throughout the years, namely Nigeria. And coincidentally the last FIFA U-17 World Cup match that Hungary played in China PR back in 1985 was against that very team, who won 3-1 before going on to take the title.
Someone who surely remembers that match very well is Nduka Ugbade, who played the full 90 minutes in Shanghai and has since joined Nigeria’s training staff.
Perhaps it will now be time for Hungary to take revenge, 34 years on.
|Nigeria - Hungary||26 October; 17:00 Local time||Estádio Olímpico (Goiania)|
|Australia - Hungary||29 October; 20:00 Local time||Estádio Olímpico (Goiania)|
|Hungary - Ecuador||1 November; 17:00 Local time||Estádio Olímpico (Goiania)|