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Collective competence can remind Hungary of golden history

Holly Thackeray | November 13, 2015

Hope was rife as Hungary squeezed past home favourites Norway by a narrow 1-0 margin to take an away goal advantage back to Budapest, and the unexpected victory came as a timely and fitting tribute to 24-capped former Tottenham goalkeeper Marton Fulop, for whom the triumphant team wore black armbands in Oslo.

The Magical Magyars were far from the sparkling side they derive their nickname from, the famous 1950s golden boys featuring the likes of legendary forward Ferenc Puskas, as they clung on to their lead in the face of an ultimately toothless Norwegian dominance.

1954 FIFA World Cup: Final - Ferenc Puskas

Yet, a triumphant win it was, and now German boss Bernd Storck is just one match away from guiding his guys to the France finals and delivering a well overdue nod back to the much revered Golden Team of days gone by. For it has been far too long since Hungary (6/4 with Coral to defeat Norway again in 90 minutes), who once boasted one of the greatest international sides in history, last graced a major tournament.

It was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, to be precise, when the Magical Magyars last appeared on the grandest of stages, before seemingly disappearing into the football abyss, and 1972 when they last took on the challenge of a European Championship.

Does a return to the top table await?

Soccer - UEFA European Championship Qualifying - Group F - Northern Ireland v Hungary - Windsor Park
While Storck expects “a very long 90 minutes” against the Scandinavians who stand in their way, fans can at least take heart that their country once again have the capability to make a splash, with a side both capable and compact and strong in spirit.

It has been a qualifying stage for the underdogs, with the likes of Iceland and Albania both booking tickets to France, and Hungary (11/2 to defeat the Norwegians by 1-0 again) will be eager to join their fellow outsiders in reaping rewards for hard graft.

“We are a strong team. Now we just have to show that in Hungary, too”, centurion and custodian Gabor Kiraly told press, after being key to keeping a clean sheet in his 100th cap against Norway.

Magical Magyars mix of evergreen industry and exuberance

Hungary Netherlands Euro 2012 Soccer
The ex-Crystal Palace post protector’s experience has proven crucial to this campaign, alongside fellow veteran and familiar face Zoltan Gera, a midfielder formerly of Fulham and West Bromwich Albion fame, though he will miss the return due to suspension.

Centre back stalwarts still in the squad, Roland Juhasz and Vilmos Vanczak, are two who join Kiraly and Gera in the top 10 for all-time appearances, yet there is also a balance on this roster, attributed to a sprinkling of youth.

Poland-based Tamas Kadar and home hopes Attila Fiola and Adam Lang were three of a stout back four that shut-out Norway, all aged 25 and under.

While, goal hero Laszlo Kleinheisler, whose long-range rocket shocked the Scandinavians on home soil is just 21 and a real hope for the future. The midfielder, dubbed “[Paul] Scholes” by teammates, bagged on his international bow, with a strike the Ginger Prince would have been proud of.

View Kleinheisler’s goal below:

“It was a sensational experience,” Kleinheisler, who plays for club side Videoton, told media. “I was given an opportunity and I took advantage.”

Hungary will need a little more of that inspirational stardust if they are to cement safe passage to the finals, with more attacking verve required in addition to their currently successful policy of containment. Watch this space.

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