28/12/2019

Can Hungary surprise the big boys?

EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #7: Hungary. A country home to excellent clubs and a national team which has achieved great success in the Olympic Games and World Championships, but EHF EURO success has always eluded Hungary

For the 12th time in the history of the Men’s EHF EURO, Hungary will line up against Europe’s elite with the nation’s expectation this time firmly fixed on securing a place in the main round.

Two years ago at EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, the Hungarians were eliminated in the preliminary round stage after losing all three of their group fixtures, eventually finishing in 14th place. 

However, an undefeated qualification campaign saw Hungary win five and draw one of their six matches against Russia, Italy and Slovakia, giving their fans cause for optimism ahead of the 2020 final tournament.

Three questions before the Men’s EHF EURO 2020:

- Who will be the leader of this squad?

As Máté Lékai will miss the event due to his injured knee, a new captain, as well as a new leader in attack, needs to arise. The Hungarian national team is full of young and already experienced players, however, the EHF EURO is a totally different beast.

- How can István Gulyás prepare for his very first international event?

The former Veszprém centre back was named head coach of the national team on 10 July. Since then, his side has won both matches. The 51-year old has coached club teams since 2006, however, this is his first mandate as a leader of a national squad. His lack of experience in major contests may take its toll.

- How important is EHF EURO 2020 for Hungary?

It is, but it is not. As the next edition in 2022 will be held in Hungary and Slovakia, the management set the most significant goal of being ready to hit the competition hard on home court. Gaining experience and learning are the most important quests for this young squad in January. 

Under the spotlight: Richard Bodo

The time has come for the 26-year-old left back. With Mate Lekai’s absence, Bodo needs to step up and replace the centre back’s goals. The 203cm tall athlete is one of the main pillars both in defence and attack. He is known for his powerful shots and a never say die attitude. However, this may be the very first time when he needs to carry most of the burden.

Self-esteem

Even without the recently retired László Nagy on court, the expectation at EHF EURO 2020 is a spot in the main round under head coach, István Gulyás. The former international and Veszprém coach is assisted by Spanish handball legend Chema Rodriguez and Nagy, who is also the vice president of the Hungarian Handball Federation.

It has been 12 years since the Hungarians finished sixth at an EHF EURO event – their best finish at a European Championships – and Gulyás and his team will be eager to make history when they take to the court this year.

Fun fact

Hungary, alongside with Slovakia will organise EHF EURO 2022. The matches will be played in Budapest, Debrecen and Szeged as well as in Bratislava and in Kosice. This is going to be Hungary’s first time hosting the Men’s EHF EURO, having co-hosted the women’s event with Croatia in 2014 and alone in 2004. 

What the numbers say

Although the Hungarian men’s national team recorded many great achievements in international events, they could never reach the semi-finals in the EHF EURO. The odds are not in their favour to break this series this year, but a main round spot seems like a possibility as they strive to gain experience.

written by Bela Müller / cor