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Resurgent Győr rising to the challenge

Six points clear at the 1. Liga summit heading into the winter recess in Hungary, Győri ETO FC, 16 matches unbeaten, are firmly on course for their first league title since 1983.

Győri celebrate one of their 35 NB I goals this season
Győri celebrate one of their 35 NB I goals this season ©

The locals of Hungary's sixth biggest city must have wondered if the glory days would ever return after 29 years without a league title, but now the good times are back and Győri ETO FC are once more at the 1. Liga summit having dominated the first half of the season.

It was 1983 when coach József Verebes delivered the club's third and most recent championship, but now with Attila Pintér back for his second spell in the dugout, they are perfectly placed to deliver a fourth – they sit six points clear of MTK Budapest at the winter break after going 16 matches unbeaten since an opening-day loss to titleholders Debreceni VSC.

Pintér's team, superbly marshalled by Zoltán Lipták and Ákos Takács in central defence, have been dominant in the key areas so far. Their 38-year-old Serbian goalkeeper Saša Stevanović, now only ten shy of Ihor Nichenko's Hungarian top-tier appearance record for a foreigner of 255 matches, has been part of a rearguard that has conceded the joint fewest amount of goals, 15. In attack, Győr are the division's top scorers having registered 35 times, that despite missing five penalties.

While rivals have faltered – Debrecen lost five consecutive matches last month and UEFA Europa League participants Videoton FC are struggling with a heavy fixture list – Győr have been relentless. Particularly impressive have been Takács, former MTK midfielder Máté Pátkai and forwards Tamás Koltai and Roland Varga, the former three being rewarded for their good form with selection for the Hungarian national team. Varga awaits his call having won bronze at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The imports have also contributed, with new Czech right-back Michal Švec settling in well, Serbian-born Bosnian international Djordje Kamber and Slovenia's Rok Kronaveter providing stability and goals from midfield and Švec's compatriot Marek Střeštík acting as the focal point of a three-man attack.

The players are not complacent, though, and Takács is convinced their biggest battles still await them. "We've led almost from the beginning, playing as league leaders almost every week," he said. "It's a good thing, but it also weighs on our shoulders. Perhaps we're in pole position for the league title, but nothing is decided yet. The hard part is still to come."

The four-times capped Hungarian international added: "We must work hard so we can remain top. Spring will be like a new season. We have to be wary of everyone, even Ferencváros [13 points behind in sixth place]. Dips in form can happen – we aren't machines – but I hope if we do have a blip, it won't last long."

With the club also in the latter stages of both domestic cups there are certainly challenges ahead, but the green-and-whites of Győr are ready to face these head on in their quest to again become Hungary's best.