The long countdown to the Socceroos’ date with destiny against France in its opening World Cup match nears completion on Sunday morning when the Socceroos take on the 49th-ranked team in the world, Hungary in Budapest.
It will be the Socceroos’ final tune-up match and follows an intensive three-week training camp in humid conditions in the Turkish southern coastal resort town of Antalya. In camp, the Socceroos’ players and coaching staff have been working on putting together defensive structures and attacking shape in preparation for the all-important first match against the formidable French team.
Although the Hungarians have played their part in football history, when, as the ‘Magical Magyars’ of the 50s, they helped reshape and progress the game through their tactical and coaching innovations, the current side won’t be playing any part in the Russian World Cup having failed to qualify from a group which included Portugal and Switzerland. However it will play a small part in helping the Socceroos to prepare for France.
So what can Socceroos fans expect from the Nemzeti Tizenegy (National Eleven) when they tune in to watch in the early hours of Sunday morning?
Hungarian Coach Georges Leekens has shown a willingness to experiment with a variety of formations in the team’s three friendly matches this year which have included narrow losses to Kazakhstan and Scotland followed by a most recent 1-1 away draw against Belarus.
Leekens has deployed a different formation in each of these games including a 3-4-3, 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. Key players in the team include Hoffenheim forward Adam Szalai, tough Bologna midfield anchor Adam Nagy, right winger and skipper Balazs Dzsudzsak, and midfielder Llaszlo Kleinheisler.
It will be interesting to see how the Socceroos approach this match. In last week’s friendly win over the Czech Republic, they showed they could absorb early pressure without conceding, something they’ll need to do against France next week. Will they adopt the same approach in their start against Hungary or deploy a more attacking approach as they’re expected to do in trying to pick up a win or two against their other group opponents in Russia, Peru and Denmark.
Whatever the case, now that the final 23-player squad has been announced, and on the eve of the tournament, fans can expect to see a less intense match between the Socceroos and the Hungarians who won’t be going to Russia.
Nevertheless there are still positions in the Socceroos line-up to be contested. The recovery of striker Tommy Juric from a knee injury, the recall of Jamie MacLaren, and the emergence of Andrew Nabbout gives coach Van Marwijk more options up front with veteran Tim Cahill likely to be deployed off the bench. Out wide the experienced Leckie and Kruse seem assured of starting with the versatile Dimi Petratos available as backup.
Tom Rogic looks to have the advanced midfield role, with Jackson Irvine as backup, while in the central midfield positions, Van Marwijk seems to be leaning towards the more mobile Mass Luongo rather than skipper Mile Jedinak, partnering Aaron Mooy. Jedinak is tipped to slot back into a central defender’s role alongside vice-captain Trent Sainsbury with Mark Milligan and Matt Jurman as further options. Josh Risdon and Aziz Behich look to have secured the fullback positions with Degenak and Meredith as back up.
Daniel Azani’s inclusion in the final squad of 23 caps a meteoric rise for the 19-year-old winger and it will be interesting to see if he gets more game time against the Hungarians or whether his inclusion in the squad is primarily to give the talented teen the experience being part of the world’s biggest football tournament.