Portugal take on Hungary in a crucial World Cup qualifier at the Groupama Arena in Budapest on Sunday.
Victory against Hungary is vital if Portugal are to stay on course for a showdown against Switzerland at the Estadio da Luz on October 10, a match likely to determine which nation automatically qualifies for Russia 2018.
After opening their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 loss in Switzerland, the Seleccao have been playing catch-up ever since. Hungary, on the other hand, saw their World Cup qualifying campaign get off to a horrible start with a 0-0 draw in the Faroe Islands.
But the ultimate humiliation would follow with a 1-0 loss in Andorra that effectively ended their World Cup dreams. They did defeat Latvia 3-1 on Thursday evening, but with the Baltic nation currently behind Andorra and Faroe Islands in Group B, it’s hardly a win that can guarantee anything tangible.
The reverse fixture ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for Portugal. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams ahead of their latest encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Few changes are likely after the win against Latvia. Adam Szalai should play up front again and his physical presence could cause problems for the visitors. Hungary will have most of the players that were a part of their squad at the European Championship last year, which should come as a boost for them.
Balazs Dzsudzsak – their captain – is sure to be a threat for Portugal. Dzsudzsak possesses a sweet left foot and is a set piece specialist, exemplified in the game against Latvia with an assist from a corner and a goal from a free kick. It was his first goal this campaign, but Portugal will be well advised to limit Dzsudzsak’s impact on the game.
Szalai is another player who can cause a lot of trouble for Portugal. His physical strength and aerial abilities are truly astounding. In fact, Szalai headed in Dzsudzsak’s corner against Latvia for his fifth qualifying goal and scored two goals against Switzerland in the 3-2 home defeat last October.
Hungary will be mathematically out of the race for Russia 2018 if they don’t win the match so that should help ensure it’s relatively open since the side will be in an attacking mode as they try to get ahead and put numbers up on the board. They can take some confidence from the 3-3 draw these sides played out at Euro 2016.
Predicted lineup (4-4-2): Gulacsi; Pinter, Guzmics, Kadar, Korhut; Stieber, Nagy, Patkai, Dzsudzsak; Varga, Szalai
Adrien Silva, Pizzi and Joao Cancelo have all dropped out of the Portugal squad. Though suspended at domestic level for the start of the season, Cristiano Ronaldo was able to prove his fitness and form as he hammered a hat-trick against Faroe Islands.
Portugal find themselves still playing catch-up in this group after a defeat in Switzerland in their opening game. They’ve been faultless since then though, winning all their matches and scoring plenty of goals. There’s genuine competition for places in this squad now but Ronaldo is very much the main man still and is likely to play on Sunday.
Fernando Santos’ men won’t want to go through another play-off to reach a major tournament, with victories in Hungary and Andorra essential to set up a showdown against Switzerland on October 10. History suggests Portugal are the favourites, but as we saw 16 months ago in Lyon, Hungary must not be underestimated.
The lethargy and tedious build up play we saw from Portugal against the Faroe Islands needs to be addressed, and their inability to dominate games against inferior opponents remain a concern, but there should be no excuses against Hungary even on their home soil.
Predicted lineup (4-4-2): Rui Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Eliseu; Joao Mario, Moutinho, Carvalho, Bernardo Silva; Andre Silva, Ronaldo
- Portugal have never lost to Hungary, winning eight and drawing four of their 12 matches.
- Most recently, they won 3-0 in March having drawn 3-3 in an epic, topsy-turvy group stage match at Euro 2016.
- Free scoring Portugal have averaged 3.86 goals per game in their qualifying campaign thus far, scoring 12 more goals than group leaders Switzerland.
- Only once, when Portugal won with a narrow 0–1 scoreline, did their duel end with less than three goals scored in total.
- Hungary have conceded six goals in their last two games against Portugal.
Hungary 0 – 3 Portugal
Portugal is definitely expected to win this match. They need to remain on the winning streak, if they are to keep safe their chances of taking Switzerland off the throne. Hungary have never beaten Portugal, and while they ended their miserable run of form with a win against Latvia on Thursday, a winning run is unlikely to extend on Sunday.
Portugal need to win to stay in contention for top spot, and they should get exactly that with Cristiano Ronaldo having proved his fitness and form in the win against the Faroe Islands. Bernardo Silva and Andre Silva provide ample support to the Real Madrid star, and it makes for an exciting attacking trio.
Hungary have conceded six goals in their last two games against Portugal, and that record is only likely to get worse after Sunday. THT predicts a 3-0 victory for Portugal when they visit Hungary.