Soccer-Germany's title credentials to be tested in Hungary grudge match

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group A - Germany v Scotland - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - June 14, 2024 Germany players pose for a team group photo before the match REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo

STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - Euro 2024 hosts Germany will get a better idea of whether their blend of youth and experience can sustain a title challenge when they take on a Hungary side on Wednesday eager to bounce back from a disappointing result in their Group A opener.

Germany ran riot in a 5-1 win over 10-man Scotland in the tournament's first match while Hungary slipped to a 3-1 defeat against Switzerland.

Young forwards Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz gave Germany fans hope that a new era beckons for the national team but they will carry the memory of Hungary winning 1-0 in Leipzig in the Nations League in September 2022.

Germany are winless in their last three meetings against a Hungary side led by young captain Dominik Szoboszlai who was visibly frustrated in their opening defeat in Cologne as the tournament's dark horses failed to get up to speed.

The 23-year-old did set up a goal for team mate Barnabas Varga and the duo will be key to their team's chances of getting their first points on the board having both grabbed four goals in Hungary's excellent qualifying campaign.

However, coach Marco Rossi knows that any of the same sloppiness that was on display from his side against the Swiss will be ruthlessly exploited by the Germans who play with a fluid intensity under manager Julian Nagelsmann.

The German coach employed Kai Havertz as a front man to draw space for Wirtz and Musiala to drive at defenders either side, a system likely to be used again as the team seek to wrap up a spot in the knockout stage.

However, Nagelsmann is wary of Hungary's relationist system - where players are free to dictate the play between each other using their individual talents, rather than sticking to a positional doctrine and rigid formation.

"Hungary are an unpleasant opponent, they can sometimes be wild and they're difficult to get a hold of. There are a lot of free spirits out there," the coach said after the win over Scotland.

In their last Euros meeting in 2021, a 2-2 group stage draw in Munich, there were off-the-field arguments and protests in the stands over the Hungarian government's anti-LGBTQ+ law.

Hungary were sanctioned by UEFA for discriminatory behaviour by their fans and Wednesday's game is expected to be a high risk event for security services.

The main Hungary supporter group, Carpathian Brigade '09, said on social media they were preparing for the group match against the Germans "with the highest volume of away spectacle of our group and the national team. The active participation of more than ten thousand Hungarian fanatics will be required".

The group also called for fans to avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

Even a draw for the Magyars would be a positive result knowing that they face Scotland in their final group game, while Germany would aim for top spot against the Swiss.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Toby Davis)

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