Halfway through the qualification, and the prospects of Italia’90 weren’t too good for Hungary. True, they were second in their group and had yet to lose. But they had drawn twice against Malta and failed to win at home against their fiercest rivals, Republic of Ireland. Realistically, Hungary would now have to win in Belfast and hope to get something from Spain.

Hungary had been through a domestic bribery scandal, seen the suspension of investigated players and the resignation of team manager Mezey. Now they were restructuring under Bicskei, but possibly looked even worse at the moment: unsure about their shape and devoid of passion. Neither the match against Ireland or Malta in Budapest brought any new hope (there were positives to be taken from the Switzerland friendly inbetween, which subsequently vanished with the Malta draw). It remained to be seen exactly how good Ireland were, but realistically Hungary looked destined to fail.

Péter Disztl remained ever-present in goal, but Bicskei seemed to favor Károly Gelei as his second choice, where Mezey went with József Gáspár.

In lieu of the experienced Sallai, Hungary would have to play Kozma. It is fair to say that the range of right backs wasn’t great either in Hungary at the time. The attacking-minded Sass was still performing ok at left back, with Keller as an able deputy. Before the qualifiers, people had expected to see Antal Nagy and Antal Róth as centre halves. Now Hungary would have to do without Nagy, and Róth had a long-term injury in Rotterdam. Suddenly László Disztl and Zoltán Bognár found themselves as first choices against Ireland (h) and Malta (h). But what happened to Attila Pintér? Or to Géza Mészöly, who played the first half against N. Ireland?

Détári remained the uncontested playmaker in the team. He had been deployed in a very deep role against Ireland, which didn’t work all to well, but Bicskei soon reverted him to his usual attacking midfield position. Around him, one would typically find György Bognár, a technically gifted player who could provide much valuable movement on and off the ball. Érvin Kovács looked to be the new defensive midfielder, as Imre Garaba remained unavailable, and had done fairly ok in his role, which was somewhat more defensive-minded than Garaba’s. Bicskei, like Mezey, didn’t have a lot to choose from with regard to wide players. József Gregor (former player from Bicskei’s Honvéd period) had failed to impress on either side against Ireland, and the attempt with Sass as left midfielder against Malta would not be a lasting option either. New constellations were to be expected in this part of the team.

Imre Kiprich was of course the team’s undisputed star striker, but hadn’t enjoyed a very succesful qualification so far. Upfront to partner Kiprich, various options had been tried. The lively Gyula Hajzán, who thrived on setting pace with the ball, was the one most likely to play next to the Tatabánya star. There was also István Vincze, who had played in tandem with Kiprich in Tatabánya, but the Lecce-based player had a long spell sidelined with an injury in 88-89. Imre Boda was the most promising emerging player, and scored goals for fun in his club team Olympiakos. Ferenc Mészáros and Tibor Balogh had got their opportunities but not used them well.