Pressure (or lack thereof) integral to Belgium-Hungary tie


In international football there are sharks and minnows. The expectation is that in major international tournaments is that the sharks will rise and the minnows will turn into fish food. But expectations are a funny thing and as this European Championship has proven not every result goes according to plan. That narrative will be put to the test on Sunday in Toulouse as the golden generation of Belgium take on the plucky upstarts of Hungary.

This will be just the third meeting between the two sides during a major international tournament. The sides have previously met at the 1972 UEFA European Championship (a 2-1 win for Belgium) and at the 1982 World Cup (a 1-1 draw). Including friendlies Belgium holds the advantage with eight wins to Hungary’s two. The two have also combined for two draws.

It has been a long, dry spell for Hungary at major international tournaments but the National Eleven are certainly making up for it in France. Manager Bernd Storck’s side shocked the footballing world by pulling off the shock victory against Austria and then delivering two consecutive draws against Iceland and Portugal.

Part of what has made Hungary so successful in this tournament is the play of their midfield. The veteran combination of Zoltan Gera and captain Balazs Dzsudszk has helped a young side push up the field and move the team from a defensive position to the attack. The two have combined for three of Hungary’s six goals during the tournament and ill look to continue their success against a Belgian defense that has struggled when pressed during this tournament.

Despite starting the tournament on the wrong foot, Beligum have turned things on during the last two matches. While the Italy result showed many of the Belgians weaknesses, particularly at center-back, manager Marc Wilmots side have found their footing against Ireland and Sweden. 

The real key in this match will be Hungary’s ability to defend the explosive Belgian attack. Midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel have formed a unique partnership with Romelu Lukaku up top. With De Bruyne and Witsel moving passes into open space for Lukaku the Belgian attack have figured out how to effectively break down opponents. Look for the Belgians to use overlapping runs against a Hungarian side that has been suspect during this tournament.

Given Belgium’s recent run of form and their advantage up top this seems to be a bit of a one-sided affair. But the Hungarians have proven themselves to be a particularly obstinate side frustrating opponents with dogged defensive work and capitalizing on their attacking chances. If Hungary can hold Belgium back early on and maintain possession for long periods they will have their chances.


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