Euro 2020 outsiders Hungary’s prospects in a frightening Group F could largely rely on RB Leipzig duo Peter Gulacsi and Willi Orban preserving stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe at bay.
However a brand new defensive stalwart has come on board in Fenerbahce’s Attila Szalai, 23, a daily fixture within the Hungary workforce since making his debut beneath coach Marco Rossi in 2019.
With Hungary’s most artistic participant Dominik Szoboszlai – additionally at RB Leipzig – out via damage, Szalai advised Hungarian media he “expects to be busy” tackling star-studded opponents.
The modest Magyars face title holders Portugal (June 15) and world champions France (June 19) within the Puskas Area in Budapest, earlier than taking over Germany in Munich (June 23).
“However we wish to trigger a shock, and win no less than a degree, or higher nonetheless a number of factors,” the highly effective centre-back, who may also play on the left, stated in a interview.
Tall and broad-shouldered, his profession has ascended swiftly from humble beginnings.
Nonetheless taking part in for lowly Hungarian facet Mezokovesd simply two years in the past he moved first to Cypriot facet Apollon Limassol in June 2019, earlier than becoming a member of Turkish giants Fenerbahce final January.
Rapidly established as a fan favorite on the Istanbul membership, Szalai, who likes to roam ahead and be a part of set-pieces, scored three objectives in 22 appearances this season.
“It might be the best day of my life if I scored a purpose for the nationwide workforce,” stated Szalai.
The defender’s “seamless transition from Cyprus to the Turkish prime tier has been spectacular,” Hungarian soccer journalist Gergely Marosi advised AFP.
“He has additionally stood out with commanding performances for Hungary, has chemistry with defensive accomplice Willi Orban, and proved he can maintain his floor towards robust opposition,” stated Marosi.
– Curiosity from overseas –
The Magyars take an 11-game unbeaten run into their opener towards Portugal, largely due to solidity on the again.
“If Szalai does not get injured or his frankly superb improvement doesn’t stall, a ‘prime 5’ league profession is certainly potential,” Marosi advised AFP.
“Making one other step up this summer time is likely to be shifting too early, however he can check himself towards the world’s finest forwards now,” he stated.
With La Liga champions Atletico Madrid and Sevilla already expressing curiosity, in addition to Premier League sides West Ham and Leicester, Szalai will probably be keenly watched at Euro 2020.
“Each participant needs to play within the three greatest leagues on the earth, so like everybody else, I’ve goals like this. I wish to play on the highest stage potential,” stated Szalai.
Nicknamed “Sancho” after his father Attila, a twice-capped Hungary defender within the Nineteen Eighties, Szalai joined Austrian facet Fast Wien as a 14-year-old earlier than returning residence aged 19.
“I used to be grateful to be taught my commerce at Fast, and was provided a contract however I wanted common first-team prime tier soccer which they could not assure,” he stated.
Now, with 13 caps beneath his belt and Hungary’s Euro 2020 opener towards Portugal beckoning, Szalai stated he “cannot wait” to play at a packed Puskas Area, the one match venue to not restrict fan capability as a Covid-19 well being precaution.
“Goose pimples are assured from the ambiance,” he stated.