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Preview: Hungary vs. England - prediction, team news, lineups
01/09/2021 16:08:17

Having come so close yet so far at Euro 2020, the England squad reunite for September's World Cup 2022 Qualifying clashes, starting with Thursday's trip to the Puskas Arena to take on Hungary.


The Three Lions have taken maximum points from their opening three games in qualification Group I, while Hungary sit second in the group with two wins and a draw so far.


Match preview


For a team that was expected to be blown away by the superiority of France, Germany and Portugal in the Euro 2020 group of death, Hungary held their own and won the hearts of the neutrals before bowing out with their heads held high.


Marco Rossi's side seemed destined for a demoralising summer after being sunk 3-0 by Portugal in their first game of the tournament, but they managed to take two points from clashes with 2018 World Cup winners France and 2014 champions Germany before ultimately finishing fourth - as expected - in the group.


The resilient nature of Rossi's side was there for all to see before Euro 2020 kicked off, as the world's 37th-ranked nation embarked on an 11-game unbeaten run across all competitions ahead of their defeat to Portugal, including three eye-catching results in World Cup qualification.


After being forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with Poland courtesy of Robert Lewandowski's late equaliser, Hungary proceeded to sink San Marino 3-0 before an equally dominant 4-1 success over Andorra - results which see them occupy second spot in the group with the highest goals tally so far (10).


Defeat to Portugal on the opening matchday of Euro 2020 represents Hungary's only loss in 14 matches across all tournaments, and with three clean sheets to boast from their last four home matches, England have their work cut out to prove that their rearguard is the most unyielding.


The appalling incidences of post-match online abuse may have overshadowed England's extraordinary run to the Euro 2020 final, but those on the field gave the Wembley faithful the opportunity to dream of a first international trophy since 1966.


Having overcome Germany, Ukraine and Denmark en route to the showpiece event, England were unable to build on Luke Shaw's opener as Leonardo Bonucci tapped home after a goalmouth scramble, and penalty misses from Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho saw hearts and hopes shattered.


However, the much-admired Gareth Southgate now has a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship runners-up medal on his CV, and if the theme of going one better is to continue in 2022, preparations for an unparalleled trophy parade must start now.


Of course, it would be folly to dream of success in Qatar right now, but Southgate's side have secured three wins from three over San Marino, Albania and Poland in qualification Group I, scoring nine goals and conceding just one in that time.


Defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final ended a 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions for the Three Lions - who kept a staggering 10 clean sheets during that run - and three points in Budapest is no less than the England faithful will demand before supporters return to Wembley for Sunday's clash with Andorra.


Team News


Hungary's RB Leipzig starlet Dominik Szoboszlai is back in the fold after being forced to miss Euro 2020 through injury, and he should take Adam Nagy's place in midfield due to the 26-year-old's suspension.


David Siger and Filip Helander represent two Euro 2020 players not in Hungary's squad for September's battles - although the former is nursing a ruptured knee ligament - while two uncapped players in Mark Tamas and Daniel Salloi are also in the fold.


The hosts have also been hit with the defensive absences of Loic Nego (COVID-19) and Gergo Lovrencsics (ankle), so Wolverhampton Wanderers new boy Bendeguz Bolla could earn a start against England.


The major talking point from the England squad announcement was the inclusion of Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford, who will seek to take advantage of the absences of Danny Ings, Marcus Rashford, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.


Injuries and illnesses have also ruled out Phil Foden, Ben White and Dean Henderson, and there is no space for Champions League-winning Chelsea left-back Ben Chilwell either.


Southgate is once again presented with an unenviable right-back dilemma but could stick with Kyle Walker on that side for now, while Saka and Jack Grealish are set to compete for the final spot in attack.


Hungary possible starting lineup:

Gulacsi; Botka, Orban, At. Szalai; Bolla, Schafer, Szoboszlai, Nagy, Fiola; Sallai, Ad. Szalai


England possible starting lineup:

Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Sterling, Mount, Grealish; Kane


We say: Hungary 1-2 England


Hungary proved throughout Euro 2020 that they are no pushovers, and the chance to leapfrog England at the top of the group means that Rossi's men will be reluctant to shy away from goalscoring opportunities.


We would not put it past the hosts to make the net ripple on their own turf, but England's added attacking quality should shine through during a narrow but crucial success.


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