England will aim to get off the mark in the UEFA Nations League at the fourth attempt when they welcome Hungary to Molineux in matchday four of League A Group 3. Gareth Southgate’s side played out a drab goalless draw with Italy on Saturday night, while the Magyars impressively held Germany to a 1-1 stalemate. Gareth Southgate had no qualms about describing a behind-closed-doors match at Molineux as an “embarrassment” for England following the Euro 2020 crowd chaos, but the display on the pitch from both teams was not far off a similar description in front of a young and restricted crowd.
Aaron Ramsdale was called into action on a couple of occasions while Mason Mount hit the bar for England, but the lucky fans in attendance may not have been feeling so fortunate to attend a largely flat affair – one which leaves the Three Lions winless in the section. Southgate’s side have taken just two points available from a possible nine to remain bottom of the group, which would lead to an unthinkable relegation to League B without an immediate change in fortunes, and scrutiny has inevitable come Southgate’s way. Not since the 2014 World Cup have England gone four games without a win in all competitions, during which they drew a friendly with Honduras before failing to win at all in Rio, while a tally of one goal in three games will surely concern Southgate given the talent at his disposal in attack.
Of course, Southgate’s crop entered the hectic schedule of fixtures after their gruelling domestic and continental seasons, leading to a much wider debate regarding player welfare, and Hungary’s resilient streak against the big boys is not letting up anytime soon. Hungary’s Roland Sallai celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on Whatever mentality lessons Marco Rossi has been teaching this Hungary side have been paying dividends week in week out, as after slipping to a narrow defeat against Italy, the Magyars stole a point off a Germany side who they also held during the Euro 2020 group of death.
There were no more goals to be had after the ninth minute following Zsolt Nagy’s early opener and Jonas Hofmann’s instant response for Die Mannschaft, and Rossi ought to be satisfied with the start his side have made to life in League A after beginning the inaugural Nations League in the third tier. Hungary enter matchday four above Germany and England in second place – just one below Italy and a potential route into the Nations League Finals – but their gritty attitude was still not enough to see them earn a spot in Qatar for the World Cup. Another disappointingly flat England performance helped Hungary secure a 1-0 win over the Three Lions in Budapest less than two weeks ago, and the Magyars’ most recent trip to England – which was overshadowed by a portion of their fans causing trouble in the stands – saw them travel home from Wembley with a 1-1 draw to boast about.
England and Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips was somewhat surprisingly fit to feature as a substitute against Italy after coming off with a “severe dead leg” against Germany a few days before, while Phil Foden was not involved at all as he continues to recover from COVID-19. Aaron Ramsdale earned just his second cap for the Three Lions and held the fort well, but Jordan Pickford or Nick Pope will expect to come into possession of the gloves as one of several changes. The likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Jude Bellingham enjoyed complete rests at the weekend and could all be drafted back in here, while Harry Kane should also displace Tammy Abraham as he continues his search for the all-time Three Lions record.
As for Hungary, Rossi may have been tempted into a goalkeeping change anyway but will be forced into one here, as number one Peter Gulacsi picked up his second booking of the tournament on Saturday and incurred a one-match ban in the process. Denes Dibusz will likely act as the last line of defence here, while Andras Schafer is back from a ban of his own, and Rossi has generally been loath to make significant alterations this month. Schafer’s return from the naughty step will likely see Callum Styles drop back down to the bench, while Daniel Gazdag and Szabolcs Schon are ready to deputise for the overworked front three of Dominik Szoboszlai, Roland Sallai and Adam Szalai if needed.
England possible starting lineup:
Pope; Walker, Stones, Guehi, Trippier; Bellingham, Ward-Prowse, Gallagher; Saka, Kane, Sterling
Hungary possible starting lineup:
Dibusz; Lang, Orban, At. Szalai; L. Nego, Schafer, A. Nagy, Z. Nagy; Sallai, Szoboszlai; Ad. Szalai