After 30 years in the international wilderness and a 44-year absence from the European Championship, a place in the spotlight is long overdue for Hungary. After all, they dominated world football in the early 1950s with the Puskas-led Magical Magyars, perhaps the finest team never to have won the World Cup.
Today's crop cannot be compared with that vintage, but Bernd Storck's squad have brought some pride back to the nation. Storck will point to Greece in 2004 as an example of why no team should lose hope of a good run in this expanded 24-team tournament.
Who can they score against?
Hungary don’t score often: the only qualifying nation to notch fewer than their 11 in 10 group matches were Albania, who played two fewer games. And three of Hungary’s goals came in one go: the closing 4-3 defeat to Greece, who finished below the Faroe Islands.
Storck prefers to keep things tight and use opportunities clinically. Set-pieces and counter-attacks were a source of crucial goals in qualifying. But will the better class of opponent restrict their minimal opportunities even further? Or will the likes of Dzsudzsak, Kleinheisler and Tamas Priskin continue to convert the few chances they carve out in each match?
With the veteran Gera now in a screening role, it's difficult to see who else will score Hungary's goals. Between August 2014 and May 2016, their current stable of five recognised strikers – Watford and Ipswich old boy Priskin, Bundesliga wanderer Adam Szalai, Nemanja Nikolic, Daniel Bode and former Liverpool sprite Krisztian Nemeth – have made 43 appearances and scored just nine times.
What they’ve learned
Hungary must trust their bright young things to support the team’s ageing spine. Inexperienced centre-backs Adam Lang and Richard Guzmics have now usurped former Anderlecht stopper Roland Juhasz, while in midfield, youngsters such as Adam Nagy and Laszlo Kleinheisler do the running so that former Fulham and West Bromwich Albion creator Zoltan Gera, now 37, can use his full range of passing in a more withdrawn role.
At 29, winger Balazs Dzsudzsak is in his prime and has proven he should be thrown the ball at the merest hint of a set-piece. We know now that Hungary can grind out goalless draws and keep opponents shackled; can they do it on the continent’s biggest stage?
Defence is an obvious area of strength, having conceded only eight goals in 10 qualifying matches, four of those coming in the final fixture. The 40-year-old Gabor Kiraly is an exuberant but reassuring presence in goal, while the back four of Tamas Kadar, Lang, Guzmics and Attila Fiola is a settled combination.
The Ferencvaros pair of Gera and Nagy offer added protection in front of the defence and with the attacking midfielders and strikers working hard to close down opponents, Hungary are a cohesive and effective defensive unit.
In attack, any set-piece involving Dzsudzsak's magic left foot will threaten the opponent's goal, while Kleinheisler is ready to shoot at any moment and the physical Bode's impact as an attacking substitute should not be underestimated.
Blunt force trauma
Having scored more than two goals only once in qualifying – in a squeaky 2-1 win over the Faroes and that defeat to Greece – it's quite obvious that Storck's men won't pepper the goal for a sustained period of time. Experience of recent top-level competition is also scarce: there are no stars in this team, and no players who have competed in the latter stages of recent Champions League or Europa League instalments.
Aside from Dzsudzsak, no one is lightning quick, although Nagy and Fiola can make up ground quickly. Those looking to the bench for inspiration will find the level of quality to be much the same as that on the pitch – there are no young surprise packages. The value of this team comes in its spirit and unity.
Aside from Dzsudzsak, the man most likely to turn a game is the talismanic Bode. The 6ft 3in striker’s first goal for Hungary earned a 1-1 draw in Turkey during the World Cup 2014 qualifiers, but he was banished to the international wilderness with the departure of coach Sandor Egervari following the humiliation of an 8-1 defeat in the Netherlands.
Fast-forward two years to October 2015 and it was Bode, in fine form for Ferencvaros, who was called upon at half-time to rescue Hungary from a humiliating home defeat to the Faroe Islands. He duly obliged, scoring twice to seal a 2-1 win and keep Hungary on track for a Euro 2016 spot. His cult hero status was enhanced in the play-off against Norway, when he came on and promptly threw a Norwegian player to the ground karate-style when tussling for the ball.
Bode’s old-fashioned forward play will see Hungary pump the ball into the final third and hope to benefit from a knockdown or thumping shot on the turn.
The German became Hungary's third coach of the qualifying campaign when he replaced Pal Dardai in July 2015, but the former Kazakhstan national team coach showed great wisdom and humility in keeping faith with his predecessor's pragmatic style of play, which had kickstarted Hungary's campaign.
The former Borussia Dortmund defender claimed creditable draws at home to Romania and away in Northern Ireland, but his real success was in leading Hungary to play-off victory home and away against Norway, the favourites. His bold selection of 21-year-old debutant Kleinheisler paid dividends as the midfielder – then languishing in Videoton's reserve team – struck an early winner in the first leg in Oslo.
Storck has continued to prepare the squad with a cautious outlook on the pitch, but the recruitment of German midfield legend Andreas Moller as his assistant has brought some real stardust to the group, also providing the players with experience of what it takes to achieve success in a European Championship.