Not so Gareth Southgate predicted the start of the countdown to the Qatar World Cup. On a night when more than 30,000 Hungarian schoolchildren crowded into this noisy arena, blowing their vuvuzelas, making a screaming noise from start to finish, England produced one of their worst performances for some time.
They had entered this League of Nations An opener – nominally to be played behind closed doors due to the bad behavior of Hungarian fans during Euro 2020 but with children allowed under a Uefa hideout and many of them – boasts a frightening record. Eighteen wins in 22 matches and just one defeat – on penalties to Italy in last summer’s Euro Final.
But the Southgate team was strangely passive, missing a bite in the places that mattered, especially the final third, and they threatened too late, playing with the piece between their teeth only after they were late to Dominik’s 66th minute penalty. Szoboszlai. The award was soft – rather like England’s up to that point – but it was just right and a punishment for a moment of clumsiness from Reece James, who had just come in as a substitute.
James touched a cross back towards his goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, and worried he wasn’t putting enough on it. And so he stepped across Zsolt Nagy to make sure the Hungary wing back could not hunt. Nagy went down theatrically and England had a sinking feeling.
Szoboszlai once told Neymar before he was punished that he had never failed and his conversion here, dragged low into the bottom corner, hairy with conviction. To great acclaim, Hungary was on its way to its first victory over England since 1962.
England flirted with problems during the first half in which they were second best and, although they pressed hard to the front foot after the goal, they could not find a way back. The margin of defeat might have been heavier if Andras Schafer hadn’t flared up high with the goal gaping for 81 minutes. The opportunity came after substitute Laszlo Kleinheisler passed Harry Maguire easily before seeing a shot parried by Pickford.
England have just five more matches ahead of their opening tie against Iran in Qatar on 21 November, with the next of them coming against Germany in Munich on Tuesday night. They will have to play with much more cohesion against their old rivals.
England met Hungary twice before this season in a World Cup qualifier, in this place when a 4-0 win was overshadowed by racist blackmail from the home crowd and in a 1-1 draw at Wembley, as Hungary showed how difficult they can be. to break.
They played here, eager to initially exploit the spaces behind England’s wing-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Justin, who worked defensively during their debut and were relegated at half-time. Alexander-Arnold looked good as he faced forward; less in the other direction.
Hungary almost started the dream. Addressing a high diagonal from left to right, Loic Nego jumped over a pompous first-time ball, low down the corridor of uncertainty behind England’s back line, and it was made to measure for Szoboszlai. Pickford flew out and he certainly scared Szoboszlai, who could only pass him with little power. The ball flowed goalwards but Conor Coady was able to return and swing clearly.
The tone was unusual, to say the least, before launching, with England emerging to the folds for their warm-up, though the pitch of them was rather more squeaky than normal. What would happen when England knelt down? In the controversial arrangement here last September, the anti-racist gesture was met with ear-splitting whistles. Here, unbelievably, was another round of mouths.
Negation was a threat ahead of time. The right-back almost picked up Roland Sallai in the opening quarter, the forward drifted away from Alexander-Arnold, but he was unable to make decisive contact and it would not be the last time Nego has troubled England with the weight and flight. of his deliveries.
England were too open in the defensive transitions in the first half, offering Hungary hope. Szoboszlai sent Zsolt Nagy galloping clear of Alexander-Arnold on the half-hour mark and the full-back made Pickford save. It was also a heartbreaking moment for the goalkeeper shortly afterwards. Hungary won the ball high and, when it broke to Adam Szalai just inside the England half, he saw Pickford from his line and went for the sensational. It looked as if he had pulled it out just so that the long-range lobe would eventually deflect the target.
England lacked a punch. Jarrod Bowen was a ready runner on the right on his debut and, after seeing an early effort blocked by Attila Szalai, his eyes lit up as Alexander-Arnold picked him with a cross from the right. Bowen downed the side volley. Coady went high from an Alexander-Arnold corner while Mason Mount could not finish from a Harry Kane cross.
Bukayo Saka, on for Justin, had a nice moment as he slipped away from two red shirts to work with Peter Gulasci from a tight corner and England pushed after the penalty. Bowen sent a second side volley at the goalkeeper, the disappointing Jude Bellingham had an effort blocked and Coady led narrowly wide of arpeggio. In the end, Kane fired weakly as he may have squared off for substitute Jack Grealish. England was shortened.