"We're better than we've shown so far," maintained Hungary's Bence Mervó, with a FIFA U-20 World Cup place now the Under-19 finals hosts' only realistic target.
Article top media content
Confusion is the main emotion among Hungary's players regarding the team's loss of form at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, but midfielder Bence Mervó is sure they can still achieve their minimum aim of FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification.
Mervó was disappointed Hungary could not capitalise on his second-half goal against Portugal but is sure the hosts will find their form in the final fixture against Israel. The hosts were outplayed by a clinical Portugal, especially in the last 15 minutes, but it could have been different if Hungary had not conceded a fourth goal immediately after Mervó had made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to go.
"It was a huge disappointment to have conceded two goals in the first half due to big errors, having done the same against Austria in our first match," Mervó said. "We started the second half in high spirits. We wanted to score an early goal and felt like we could get two or three, so we resolved to make a fresh start. It was a very good move for our goal and it seemed as if we could score more; after such a great cross I had an easy task to put the ball in the net."
Instead of mounting a comeback, Hungary were ruthlessly exposed by a Portugal team who used their pace on the wings to stretch the hosts' tiring back line to breaking point. "This match showed us we have to improve a lot because we are not at the same level as Portugal," Mervó acknowledged.
"We had seven wins in our warm-up matches so it's a mystery why we can't play with the same quality now. Now is a very difficult moment but we have to forget about this match and focus only on our remaining game."
Victory against Israel in Budapest on Friday will give Géza Mészöly's team third place in Group A and with it a place in next year's World Cup in New Zealand, something which Mervó still believes is a realistic possibility.
"Our next step is to qualify for the World Cup so we have to win our last game. If we manage to do this, there will be a big need to change and improve. We're capable of winning this last fixture because we're better than we've shown so far. We'll go forward and show this."