Are You Hungary For More?
Excuse the inevitable pun…the good news is that we’re still pretty formidable at home: nine straight wins, unbeaten since that game against Croatia in November 2007 and playing a country that hasn’t beaten us since the 1962 World Cup and hasn’t beaten us in England since that game in November 1953.
The bad news? This is a game we should win. Just like the game against Algeria during the World Cup, although to be fair to the Algerians the current FIFA rankings have the Desert Foxes thirty places above the current crop of slightly less than magical Magyars, but after this summer’s dismal failure anything might happen.
Having said that, the contrite atmosphere that has permeated the press conferences given by Fabio Capello and Steven Gerrard this week have been encouraging yet slightly depressing. Admitting that there were various problems with both the preparation and execution of the World Cup campaign is refreshing, but the comments that were coming from the England camp before the World Cup contradicted those statements. Attempting to put those things right in one game won’t work and – like most fans – I’ll be extremely wary if the expected romp through the Euro 2012 qualification group materialises. It shouldn’t be forgotten that half of the World Cup semi finalists had to qualify via the playoffs.
Then there are the withdrawals. I’ve already commented on Robinson and Brown and to some extent I sympathise with their points of view, but although it’s encouraging to see that Capello has called up Scott Loach and Frankie Fielding from the Under 21 squad as replacements, he didn’t really have much choice in the matter and I seriously doubt that they’ll get any playing time tomorrow.
Spare a thought for Hungary though. Despite their 1954 squad being widely acknowledged as one of the best teams never to have won the World Cup, they haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1986, although the under 20s finished third in the 2009 World Cup for that age group. That team was coached by Sandor Egervari, who replaced Erwin Koeman as senior team manager at the end of July. Although there are several well known names amongst the Hungarians – four of the squad play in England and keeper Gabor Kiraly played for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Burnley – the Hungarian league isn’t particularly good and it’s significant that only five of the twenty man squad play for domestic clubs. Kiraly is the most capped player in the current squad and any goals will come from either Zoltan Gera of Fulham or Tamas Priskin, who scored at the weekend for Ipswich Town.
Prediction: England to win and keep a clean sheet. Immediate post-match reaction tomorrow but it won’t be either an instant classic or have the same long term implications this game did, although after this summer’s shambles it could be argued we still haven’t learned the lessons from that foggy Wednesday afternoon in November 1953…