Hungary depart Euro 2016 with future looking bright
Hungary exit Euro 2016 with their heads held high. Here's an assessment of their campaign in France and where the national team goes from here.
At a glance
Sunday was a sad day for Hungarian football, but a proud one; to go out with a 4-0 defeat to Belgium was disappointing, but to even think Hungary had a chance is testimony to how far this team has come over the past two weeks.
fancied Austria. No one had given Hungary a prayer before the Euros began, and after less than a minute gone into matchday one, David Alaba almost got the Austrians off to a perfect start hitting the inside of the post with goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly beaten. Had the ball been inches further to the left, Hungary's tournament could've turned out a whole lot different. But the Magyars composed themselves and gained confidence with every passing minute, and it wasn't against the run of play when Adam Szalai -- who hadn't scored for 18 months for club or country -- bundled the ball home to put Hungary into a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
It was a goal that was 30 years in the making, a historic goal which spread joy and belief throughout not just the team, but the country itself. The second goal, the deft chip from Zoltan Stieber, was the icing on the cake on a great day for Hungarian football that evoked memories of the great Magyar teams of the past.
The humbling against Belgium was tough to take. Hungary hadn't done too badly throughout the game, and were still very much in it until the second goal went in on 78 minutes.
Hungary responded by throwing on a striker for a defender and all hell broke loose with Belgium scoring their third and fourth, opening up Hungary easily on the break. On paper it looks a bit like an embarrassing defeat for Hungary, and it wasn't a great way to bow out from a tournament in which they gained so many admirers. But if the Magyars had gone out with a whimper they'd have been kicking themselves for not going for it, so they can even find solace in their lowest point of the tournament.
Adam Nagy was remarkable throughout the tournament. Many tipped him to be a rising star in the Euros, but there were doubts over his ability to transfer his club form -- in the relative modesty of the Hungarian league with Ferencvaros -- to the big stage, against such quality opposition.
He adapted with aplomb, and received plaudits from all kinds of angles and received interest from all kinds of clubs -- including most notably Marseille and Benfica. It was the 21-year-old defensive midfielder's coming of age tournament. Hungary will be hoping he has many more as good as this one.
Hungary have a real structure, and a real bright future. The core of the Hungarian team, and the quality within the team, lies at the feet of the youngsters. If they can kick on, Hungary won't be waiting another 30 years for a major tournament.
The likes of Laszlo Kleinheisler, Adam Lang and Nagy have been fantastic in the Euros, and in Bernd Storck, Hungary have a coach who loves to give youth a chance and gives the players a chance to express themselves even in such a pressure cooker situation. Hungary have plenty of reasons to look to the future with optimism following a very respectable campaign.
Tomasz Mortimer is ESPN FC's Hungary blogger at Euro 2016. Twitter: @TMortimerFtbl