Hungary are the team of the hour, they top Germany’s UEFA Nations League group, group A3 with seven points from four games and the ‘Magyars’ gave England a real lesson in tactical football on Tuesday night beating them 4-0.
But Hungary are also the team that has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since Mexico 1986 and that missed out on all European Championships between 1976 and 2012 so what has changed?
To find out more about the Hungarian football revival, GGFN’s Ben McFadyean spoke to Hungary’s assistant manager and U21 head coach, 97 times Hungary international and two-time player of the year (2004 and 2005) Zoltán Gera.
Gera is a Hungarian former professional footballer who played as an attacking midfielder for Pécsi Mecsek and Harkány SE, as well as enjoying two spells at Ferencváros and West Bromwich Albion and Fulham.
The Hungary national team’s assistant manager between 2017-21, he made his international debut for Hungary in 2002 against Switzerland, with his nation losing 2–1. In 2009, Gera briefly retired from the national team following a dispute with then-manager Erwin Koeman.
When Koeman was replaced by Sándor Egervári in 2010, Gera returned to Hungary’s international squad which he later represented at the 2016 UEFA European Championship. He announced his final retirement from football on 28 June 2018.
Gera was appointed assistant manager of the Hungary men’s first team in June 2019, he is also head coach of the U21 team.
Ben McFadyean (BM): Zoltán, you are the head coach of the Hungary U21 national team and were a vital part of the first-team set up between 2017-21 as assistant manager as well, how does it feel to be on the coaching side now?
Zoltán Gera (ZG): I feel really good, it’s actually an honour in fact to be coaching my country, I started three years ago and I am enjoying working with the young players, it’s an important step for the players, we work hard to get them into the kind of shape they need to be in, I am enjoying my work.
BM: Looking at the Hungarian game right now the team are achieving very respectable results in a very tough group which includes Italy, England and Germany, what is the key to the revival of Hungarian football we are seeing?
ZG: In fact, the team are improving and I think that the results will continue to improve. We have a good generation of players, also at the U21 level which I coach myself who are coming through but you never know at that level because everything can change very quickly. But there is a really talented generation of players coming through in Hungary.
BM: Talking about Hungarian players, RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai or András Schäfer of Union Berlin are already making an impact in the Bundesliga. Goalkeeper Zsombor Senko is now with Juventus and striker Andras Nemeth is currently playing with Genk in Belgium, how far can they go?
ZG: You know when our job as coaches of the national team is to nurture the talent primarily and that is what we try to do. Take for example Szabolcs Schön who is now with FC Dallas, he is a young player who is already playing with the first team and for sure one to watch out for. Szoboszlai has had a long period of injury but he has great potential and is developing well. Senko is currently with Juventus U23s but he is the future, a really talented keeper. Nemeth is also a really good prospect for the future, I could see him in the Bundesliga in the future.
BM: Winger Zalan Vancsa signed with Manchester City, how much can City fans expect from Vancsa?
ZG: Zalan is a very creative player, he is the youngest ever player to score in the Hungarian league and has been playing in Belgium with SK Lommel, he has pace and good technique, I think if he can keep up the performance level he can become part of the Manchester City first team in the long run.
BM: You are well-known to the Fulham fans from your three seasons with the Craven cottage-based club, where you played alongside Moritz Volz, how do you see their promotion to the Premier League?
ZG: Yes, of course, I was with Fulham for three seasons in the Premier League during my time there and I remember my time fondly. Fulham belongs in the top tier, they are a big club. I hope they will play a good season ahead, I am also a Fulham Fan. I would very much like to spend more time in the UK and have many friends there. Sadly especially during the past two years with the pandemic, I didn’t get to go over very often though.
BM: Hungary are top of the table in Group A3, 1 point ahead of ‘Die Mannschaft’ Germany with England a surprise bottom of the table, can your team go all the way to the final?
ZG: Italy failed to get to the FIFA World Cup but as they showed when they beat us 2-1 earlier this month, they are always dangerous, in the case of Germany they have been very good recently but against comparatively small opponents Liechtenstein or Macedonia.
In the matches that counted against Italy and Holland, they managed only a draw but Hansi Flick’s team are always very difficult to play against, they are disciplined and have a great mentality. England is going through a rough spell but will be back. I feel Hungary is on track to keep improving our performances but I couldn’t predict the finals. I will be pleased if we keep playing as we are, I feel proud of the team right now.