When Ireland played away to Hungary in June 2021, both teams were in a transition period. Both teams were in the third-tier of European football. Stephen Kenny the (newish) Ireland manager had taken over the previous September with games in the Nations League badly interrupted by covid. The results were very poor.
While Hungary had a place at Euro 2021 the next month, they had qualified through the Nations League by default really.
But Hungary did really well in a tough group at Euro 2021, after losing 3-0 to Portugal in the first game they had two impressive draws against France 1-1 and Germany 2-2, they still went out at the group stage, but they had let the world know that Hungary as a footballing nation was back after a very long absence.
Hungary have gone from a third-tier European team to a team knocking on the door of the first tier. They have had some outstanding results against the best teams in Europe, beating England home and away in the Nations League recently. The 4-0 away win at Wembley will not be forgotten any time soon.
Meanwhile, Ireland is still firmly a third-tier team and if anything, a lower third team. Our most notable results were a draw with Portugal and Serbia in a group we had no hope of qualifying from.
Today, Ireland is once again looking like we are out of the qualifying for the 2024 Euros after three games played with 3 points, those three points were a win against Gibraltar. Depressing stuff.
Hungary narrowly missed out on a place in the Finals of the Nations League, but still to finish 2nd to Italy in a group with England and Germany is impressive.
So far Hungary has 7 points from 9 in their Euro 2026 qualifying group. Not bad.
So back to the June friendly against Hungary. Four days earlier Ireland played Andorra away in a friendly. After 50 minutes the score read 1-0 to Andorra!. But Ireland rallied and won the game 3-1, Troy Parrott rescuing the team in what would have been the worst defeat in Irish football’s history.
So, expectations from Ireland fans were very low for the away friendly with Hungary. Around 600 Ireland fans made the trip to Budapest, many would have driven there purchasing a motorway vignette. The smart fans would have been wise to avoiding the fines.
The game itself was decent enough Ireland had some good chances and played well. This performance made people think that maybe Stephen Kenny was the right manager for the job, and that if we could just start scoring some goals it would all come together.
John Egan hit the crossbar with a header after 6 minutes. And for most of the first half Ireland contained Hungary well defensively.
In the 2nd half Caoimhin Kelleher of Liverpool made his debut as goalkeeper replacing Gavin Bazunu. Kelleher made three good saves in the half too. Chiedozie Ogbene also came on for his first cap late on too, and nearly scored when he shot into the side netting from a tight angle.
The42.ie match report had this to say:
“So that’s that.
It’s finished 0-0 and a draw is probably a fair result, as it’s been a pretty evenly fought match.
Kenny can take positives from the performances of a number of players — Shane Duffy, John Egan, Jason Knight and both goalkeepers were among the standouts for Ireland.
They were up against a side who are going to the Euros and who are on a long unbeaten run, so from that perspective, 0-0 is a decent result.
There were some familiar problems though. Ireland looked a little bit lacklustre and lacked dynamism in attack at times, particularly in the first half.
They improved after the break, however, and had a couple of decent half-chances, though Hungary also went close on a couple of occasions too.”
So that was Ireland’s last match against Hungary. One team has risen up the world rankings to give their fans renewed hope for the future while the other fans are looking down.
Ireland starting XI v Hungary June 2021: Bazunu, Doherty, O’Shea, Duffy, Egan, McClean, Cullen, Hourihane, Knight, Parrott, Idah.