Hungary's heroes end personal frustrations
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
Hungary's 2-0 defeat of Austria was not just a crucial victory for their Group F hopes, it also ended a long period of personal frustration for several players – not least Ádám Szalai.
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The 2-0 defeat of Austria was not only vital for Hungary's chances of qualifying for the UEFA EURO 2016 knockout phase, it was also a moment of special joy for those victorious players who had a special point to prove following indifferent experiences at club and international levels recently.
Goalscorers Ádám Szalai and Zoltán Stieber have been out on loan in German football this year as they sought first-team football to secure their place in Bernd Storck's squad. They were not the only ones, though.
Man of the match against Austria on Tuesday, László Kleinheisler moved to Werder Bremen in the January transfer window after languishing in Videoton's reserve side in Hungary's third tier due to a contract dispute. Forward Krisztián Németh, meanwhile, left Sporting Kansas in the United States for Qatar's al-Gharafa in order to get regular competitive action in the springtime. There were plenty with points to make to a wider audience yesterday.
Striker Szalai was perhaps the one under the most pressure. Without a goal to his name in any senior match since December 2014, the 28-year-old has been the subject of intense criticism from fans and media in his homeland, especially considering the top scorers in the 2015/16 Hungarian and Polish top tiers, Dániel Böde and Nemanja Nikolić respectively, are squad-mates of his here in France. Then there is the goalscoring hero of last November's UEFA EURO 2016 play-off, Tamás Priskin.
Former Real Madrid B and Schalke forward Szalai's value is clear though; his hold-up play, physical presence and ability to draw fouls is reminiscent of Alan Shearer, who at EURO '96 also scored in his first finals match after a long national-team drought. Szalai also often finds himself in dangerous positions in the last third but his finishing had left a bit to be desired – until now.
It was perhaps Németh who summed up Szalai's turbulent spell best: "It had been a long time since he scored a goal," Németh told UEFA.com. "It was difficult for him, he's had a tough period, but he's over the moon now. We're all very happy."
Maybe this team of Magyars is mightier than they've been given credit for. Thankfully, after their superb hard-fought victory in Bordeaux, these untrumpeted stars may well earn more opportunities to impress the doubters.