Euro 2024 team guides part two: Hungary

Estimated read time 6 min read

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


Though Hungary have famously had great teams in the past, this generation is the first of its kind for a very long time. Playing a transitional, relationist 5-3-2 formation, Marco Rossi’s side have developed enormously in the three years since the last European Championship where they so narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout stages despite being in a nightmarish group containing Portugal, Germany and France.

Then, Hungary were based on survival, whereas now this team are thriving in their own right. Led by the masterful Dominik Szoboszlai, they are much improved in an attacking sense since Euro 2020 and now play a flowing brand of football which gives the players the freedom to flex their creative muscles.

Though the squad on paper may not worry many, this Hungary side is much more than the sum of its parts and is built on a combination of astute tactics and being intensely resolute. In international football, it’s a combination you rarely see.

And this all comes from their manager, Rossi, who embodies every fibre of his team. The Italian has been transformational since taking charge in 2018 and has developed a side who are being tipped by some as a dark horse for the tournament.

That may be a stretch and a group containing Germany, Switzerland and Scotland won’t be easy to navigate, but the further Hungary go, the more confidence they will collect, and the more dangerous they will become.

At the time of writing Hungary are on a run of one defeat in 18 games, which is not to be sniffed at, especially when away wins over Germany and England are included in that sequence. They qualified for these finals unbeaten in their eight games and topped their group for the first time in their European Championship qualifying history.

The coach

You don’t get many foreign managers at international level like Marco Rossi. From day one, the Italian has fiercely bought into the culture of his adopted nation. “I feel at home here,” he said upon receiving his Hungarian citizenship in 2023. “I will be grateful to Hungary for the rest of my life.” Hungarian fans are grateful to him too. Since Rossi took over in 2018, Hungary have risen to new heights: back-to-back Euro qualifications, a promotion to Nations League A, wins over England and Germany. These are heady days for Hungarian football and Rossi deserves a lot of the credit.

The icon

No Hungarian footballer born in the last 60 years has had as much talent as Dominik Szoboszlai. Indeed, you could argue there’s not been a Hungarian player like Szoboszlai since Ferenc Puskas. Blasphemy? Maybe, but his teammates are already likening him to the greats. “You have the same feeling about him as when Lionel Messi was at his best,” claims Hungary goalkeeper Denes Dibusz. It feels hyperbolic to call the Liverpool man Hungary’s Messi; a better comparison is to say that he is Hungary’s Gareth Bale. The tactic is: give our maestro the ball as much as possible. It’s working – Hungary haven’t lost since he was appointed captain in 2022.

One to watch

Already a Premier League regular at 20, Milos Kerkez is one of the most exciting left-backs in world football and offers an electricity that reminds many of Inter’s rampaging Federico Dimarco. The move to Bournemouth in 2023 was a left-field one after he had been linked to bigger clubs, but he has thrived alongside a young, exciting group and a move to Manchester United or Chelsea this summer has been talked about. An impressive Euro 2024 performance might just secure the step up.

The maverick

Laszlo Kleinheisler is one of the most enigmatic players in international football. At the last Euros, Kleinheisler won the man of the match in the 1-1 draw against France despite being pitted into a midfield battle against N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot. For Hungary, the man they call the Hungarian Scholes is a phenomenon. But away from international football he’s had more clubs than a pack of cards and spent the end of last season on loan at Hajduk Split in Croatia. Don’t be surprised to see the 30-year-old light things up this summer, and then disappear off the face of the earth for another four years.

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Hungary’s Laszlo Kleinheisler has a difference of opinion with a number of Turkey players during their friendly in Budapest during March 2024.View image in fullscreen

The spine

Hungary’s spine is exclusively Bundesliga-honed. Since returning from an ACL injury in February Peter Gulacsi has been back to his best at RB Leipzig and is one of Europe’s top keepers. A real leader, he’s similar to his club teammate Willi Orban who stands as Hungary’s defensive colossus. Though he doesn’t speak Hungarian, Germany-born Orban’s leadership since obtaining citizenship in 2018 has been transformational, and alongside Szoboszlai he is Hungary’s most important player. Up top, schemer extraordinaire Roland Sallai of Freiburg will link play and harry defences. His energy and tenacity epitomises everything that is good about Hungary, plus he has an eye for the spectacular.

Probable starting XI

Hungary predicted lineupView image in fullscreen

Celebrity fan

There is no bigger fan of Hungarian football than Viktor Orban. The infamous nationalist leader’s government has spent over €2bn on rejuvenating Hungarian football since 2010 and he even had a world-class stadium built within eyesight of his childhood home in 2014. Formerly a footballer in the lower leagues himself, apparently Orban hasn’t missed a Champions League or World Cup final in over 25 years and he’ll likely be at every Hungary game this summer.

Culinary delight

Hungarians aren’t alone in their love of sunflower seeds, but having said that, there can’t be many other nations that eat them with the same ferocity as the Hungarian football fan. In the early days of internet video, a clip went viral which showed what can only be described as a robotic wave of around 200 Hungarian football fans’ arms moving to collect the seeds from their lap and dispatch them into their mouths. You’ve got to feel for the person cleaning the shells up.


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