Hungary were ranked second in Group 6 but faced stiff competition for one of the two qualifying berths, battling with favourites Spain, plucky N. Ireland and a vastly improved Rep. of Ireland.
After László Balint short stint, György Mezey returned to the national team as manager in the time for the campaign for Italy’90. Mezey had of course been head coach also under Mexico’86, before leaving for Kuwait. Hungary’s 1988 campaign hadn’t been a particularly good one, and Mezey was re-appointed in order to bring back hope for another World Cup. The Hungarians were well used to the world stage tournament at the time, having been qualified for every World Cup since 1978. Would it be a fourth in a row?
Before their first qualifier, which was scheduled for October, Hungary played two away friendlies.
31.08.88 Austria 0-0 Hungary
Line-up: P Disztl – Sallai, Nagy, Garaba (c), Sass (Szalma 65) – Kozma, Róth, G Bognár, Vincze (Hajszán 54) – Dajka (E Kovács h-t), Kiprich
21.09.88 Iceland 0-3 Hungary
Goals: Kiprich 2, Vincze
Line-up: P Disztl (Gáspár 78) – Sallai (c), Nagy (Pintér h-t), Róth (Mészöly 78), Keller – Kozma, Gyimesi (Gregor h-t), E Kovács, Vincze – Kiprich (Fodor 78), Hajszán
Mezey restored some belief in the Hungarian side with these two friendlies. 0-0 in Linz against Austria was a much improved result for Hungary after losing 4-0 under Balint in the reverse fixture in Budapest before summer. The 3-0 win in Iceland also gave promise, with star striker József Kiprich ravaging the Icelandic defence.
It had only been two years since Mezey left his post as the national team coach and he could still rely on most of the important players from Mexico: Péter Disztl, Antal Roth, Détári, Kiprich, Garaba, Nagy were all still around. Disztl had not been in favour with the previous coaches, but Mezey made him his first choich in goal, ahead of Gaspar. At right back, Balint had often used István Kozma: Mezey reinstated Sallai, and moved Kozma to midfield. At the other full back, Hungary now had two options in János Sass (Honvéd) and József Keller (Ferencváros). To tell from the friendlies, Mezey wanted to play Nagy as a libero and Roth as central defender. In backhand he had the more inexperienced Attila Pintér (Ferencvaros) and Geza Mészöly (Vasas). In midfield Mezey had many options. Détári was guaranteed to play, and so did the defensive midfielder Garaba. Kozma looked also to be in favour, ahead of his Újpest colleague Ervin Kovács: both primarilly seen as defensive minded. There were also a creative player like Bognár and Mezeys old favourite László Dajka. On top, József Kiprich was an obvious choice, either partnered by István Vincze or Gyula Hajszán. Vincze was the most exciting of Hungary’s new players, probably followed by Kozma and Pintér.
19.10.88. Hungary 1-0 Northern Ireland
Hungary (4-1-2-1-2): P Disztl – Sallai, Nagy, Mészöly (Dajka h-t), Sass – Garaba (c), Kozma, G Bognár, Détári – Kiprich, Hajszán (Vincze 82)
Despite almost full control throughout, Hungary can only get a narrow win. The visitors are playing very defensively (and disciplined), and Hungary have a hard time finding the openings. Vincze had been vying for a start, but came on to grab a late winner. The match also has some interesting tactical ploys from Mezey, as he switches to a 3-4-3 formation at half time.
A bribery scandal in the Hungarian league hits the national team hard. Several players are suspended and made unavailable for Mezey.
15.11.1988. Greece 3-0 Hungary
Hungary (4-4-2): P Disztl (c) – Máriási, Pintér, Mészöly (Bordás h-t), Sass (Keller 59) – E Kovács, Kozma, Csucsánszky, Vincze (Fischer h-t) – Kiprich, Hajszán (T Balog 79)
This was Mezey’s attempt to establish a team after being hit by suspension on several key players. It is a crushing defeat, albeit to a good home side. The team is a mix of experience and new features, and debuts are handed to midfielder Csucsánszky and forwards Fischer and Balog, who would all feature during the qualifiers.
11.12.88. Malta 2-2 Hungary
Goals: Vincze, Kiprich (pen.)
Line-up (4-4-2): P Disztl (c) – Kozma, Csuhay, L Disztl, Keller – Kékesi, E Kovács, Csucsánsky, Vincze (Fischer 72) – Kiprich (Pintér 88), T Balog
Mezey had been without half his first team due to a domestic bribery scandal, and they had conceded a late, late goal to drop a costly point. Four of the players in the starting eleven would never again feature during the qualifiers
György Mezey resigns from his position as manager for the national team after the match in Malta. Not primarily because of the poor result, but because of a clause in his contract that permitted him to leave if he felt he couldn’t work freely. The domestic investigation that had banned many of his players made him trigger this clause.
On the 30th December, Bertalan Bicskei (current Honvéd manager) is appointed new manager for Hungary.
08.03.89. Hungary 0-0 Republic of Ireland
Hungary (4-1-3-2): P Disztl – Kozma, Sass, L Disztl, Z Bognár – E Kovács – Détári, Gregor (Boda 78), Hajszán – Kiprich (c), Mészáros (G Bognár h-t)
Despite being the team creating the more opportunities, it is a bit of a lacklustre performance by the Hungarians in their first match under new manager Bicskei. Chances are few and far between. Détári is deployed in an unusually deep midfield role with limited success.
04.04.1989. Hungary 3-0 Switzerland
Hungary (4-1-3-2): P Disztl – Kozma, Keller, L Disztl, Z Bognár – E Kovács (T Balog h-t) – Détári (Csucsánszky 81), Sass (Csehi 79), Gregor – Kiprich (c) (Fischer 53), Hajszán
An impressive first win under their new manager, with goals from Détári, E Kovács and Z Bognár. Debut for left-sided midfielder Csehi.
12.04.89. Hungary 1-1 Malta
Line-up (4-4-2): P Disztl – Kozma (Kiprich 74), L Disztl, Z Bognár, Keller – G Bognár, E Kovács, Détári (c), Sass (Fischer h-t) – Boda, Hajszán
It was obviously a huge disappointment to drop yet another point against the group minnows, and the Hungarian chances for qualifying now were hanging by the thread. They could even have lost after a second half display that could’ve been seen as too ambitious, disrupting the balance in the team. Despite this, they hit the bar through forward Boda in injury time
26.04.89. Italy 4-0 Hungary
Line-up (4-4-2): P Disztl – Kozma, L Disztl, Balog, Keller – Zsinka (Gregor 60), Z Bognár, Détári (c), Vincze (Hajszán 66) – Fodor (G Bognár 76), K Kovács
Against a more or less full strength Italy, a relatively intact Hungary went on to concede three second half goals. Hungary never stood a chance against an opponent too strong, too slick and too rampant. Only Détári could keep with the level of the home players
May 1989. Half-term report.
04.06.89. Republic of Ireland 2-0 Hungary
Line-up (5-4-1): P Disztl – Kozma, Z Bognár, L Disztl, Garaba, Keller – Mészáros (Vincze 72), Fitos, Détári (c), Csehi (G Bognár 67) – Boda
This was Hungary’s first ever defeat against the Irish, and it happened at a crucial time. The visitors were often boys against men, and the road to Italia ’90 now seems a long one. Hungary had no answer to the Irish long-ball tactics, and Cascarino inflicted all sorts of problems on their backline
06.09. Northern Ireland 1-2 Hungary
Goals: K Kovács, G Bognár
Hungary (4-4-2): P Disztl – Sallai, Keller, L Disztl, Limperger – E Kovács, G Bognár (Z Bognár 85), Détári (c), Sass – Fischer (Hajszán 90), K Kovács
The away side is generally outfought throughout most of the match, but still somehow manage to get a win. There is little to be excited about in terms of attacking play, and yet two individual performances mean they score two goals. N. Ireland deserved a lot more, and as so often before Hungary do not thrive when needing to get stuck in.
11.10.89. Hungary 2-2 Spain
Goals: Pintér 2
Line-up (4-4-2): P Disztl – Sallai, Z Bognár, Pintér, Keller (Boda 72) – G Bognár, Róth (Kozma h-t), Détári (c), Vincze – Kiprich, K Kovács
25.10.89. Hungary 1-1 Greece
Hungary (4-4-2): P Disztl – Sallai, Keller, Limperger, Pintér – Kozma, Détári (c), E Kovács (Szekeres h-t), G Bognár – Fischer, K Kovács (Kiprich h-t (Boda 77))
Winger Szekeres got the Hungarian goal, with Limperger making his only second appearance at international level as centre half. Fischer starts again, and he seems to have an admirer in Bicskei.
15.11.89. Spain 4-0 Hungary
Line-up (4-4-2): P Disztl – Simon, Pintér, Z Bognár, Keller – Kozma, E Kovács, G Bognár (c) (Szalma 90), Szekeres – Fischer (Bácsi 64), K Kovács
The heavy defeat was a miserable way to end the campaign, and they had been tactically inept, and with players underperforming. Indeed, Hungary had been fortunate not to lose by an even heavier margin, even if they could have scored themselves through substitute Bácsi, one of very few light points. Right back Simon was another.
On the merit of their performances, there is good reason too believe that Spain and the Republic of Ireland always were going to be stronger teams than Hungary in this qualification. Hungary can nevertheless feel aggravated that off-field incidents ruined a large part of their work. The domestic authorities’ investigation of several key players in the team resulted in temporary bans that made the job difficult to György Mezey. The disappointing draw in Malta not only damaged their chances severely, but limited the selection of Mezey’s successor for the six remaining fixtures.
Bertalan Bicskei took over the reins for Hungary, with 6 games remaining, but never really got the team going. A decent, if uninspirational, draw against Rep. of Ireland (h) was followed by another abysmal draw aginst Malta, this time at home in Budapest. With Eire growing in stature and beating Hungary 2-0 in Dublin, the Hungarians were in all but theory out of contention after 5 of 8 matches. Hungary were overall unimpressive: they were sluggish and sloppy in a style of play that looked far too ambitious for their calibre of players. They were also very narrow, relying much on Détári’s creative prowess. Both Détári and their other star player, Kiprich, had their moments, but they were too rare. Add to this that Bicskei didn’t appear to know which was his best XI, making the turnover of selected players one of the biggest among the European participants in these qualifiers.
While they looked defeated before the three final games, Hungary somehow managed to come back to save a microscopic element of excitement down to the final day. They won in Belfast due to individual brilliance, despite again being far from convincing, and even managed a draw against Spain at home. The hammering they received on the final day in Seville did however reveal the rotten state of the team.
Final position: 3 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 2 4 2 8-12 8
Home record: 4 1 3 0 4-3 5
Away record: 4 1 1 2 4-9 3
Number of players used: 35
Number of players including unused substitutes: 51
Ever-presents (720 mins): 1 (Péter Disztl)
Leading goalscorer: Vincze and Pintér (both 2)
Yellow/red cards: 6/0
– game by game
|Player||NIR (h)||Mal (a)||Ire (a)||Mal (h)||Ire (h)||NIR (a)||Spa (h)||Spa (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average ratings||Number of rated games|
20.03.1990 Hungary 2-0 United States
Goals: Petres, Limperger
Line-up: Brockhauser – Mónos, Pintér, Mészöly, Palaczky (Lakatos 69) – G Bognár (c) (T Balog 81), Limperger, Jován (Fischer h-t), Duró – Petres (Horváth 69), Máriási (Csucsánszky 81)
28.03.1990 Hungary 1-3 France
Goal: Pintér (pen.)
Line-up: Brockhauser – Mónos, Pintér, Mészöly, Palaczky – G Bognár (Duró 62), Limperger, Détári (c) (T Balog 79), Máriási – K Kovács (Jován 62), Petres (Fischer 52)
11.04.1990 Austria 3-0 Hungary
Line-up: Brockhauser – Mónos, Pintér, Mészöly, Palaczky (T Balog 64) – Jován, Limperger, G Bognár (c) (Lőrincz 85), Máriási – Duró (Márton 82), Petres (Katona 64)
28.05.1990 Hungary 3-0 United Arab Emirates (in Nîmes, France)
Goals: K Kovács 3
Line-up: Gelei – Mónos, Pintér, L Disztl, Varga – Mészáros (Fischer h-t), Garaba (c), G Bognár, Szalma – Kiprich (T Balog 57), K Kovács
02.06.1990 Hungary 3-1 Colombia
Goals: G Bognár, K Kovács 2
Line-up: Gáspár (Bodnár h-t) – Mónos (Mészöly h-t), Pintér, L Disztl, Szalma – Duró (Varga 69), G Bognár, Garaba (c) (Csik h-t), Máriási (Csucsánszky 77) – Kiprich (Fischer h-t), K Kovács