In last week's Europa League matches, Hungarian champions Debrecen were beaten by a single Sampdoria goal in Genoa, but were unlucky not to take something from the game. Continuing a look at Hungarian football, Tomasz Mortimer.
The story of Debrecen is almost fairytale like. Founded in 1902 as Egyetértés Futball Club they lived in the shadow of city rivals DKASE until they collapsed due to financial difficulties and formed a coalition with Debreceni Vasutas Sport Club. For about 50 years, they were the West Brom of Hungary, Yo-yoing back and forth from the first division, to the second and occasionally down to the third. However, since 1993, “Loki” began to find its feet with the rest of Hungary’s elite. They won promotion to NB1 and since then they haven’t looked back, and just 6 years later, they won their first national trophy, The Magyar Kupa (The Hungarian Cup).
11 years on, they’ve won the League Title 5 times, the Magyar Kupa a further three times, the Super Cup 5 times and the newly formed Hungarian League Cup once. They also became the 2nd ever Hungarian team to qualify for the Champions League group stage, and impressive performances against Fiorentina and Liverpool at Anfield made people look at a Hungarian side seriously for the first time in about 15 years. Admittedly, they lost all six of their games, but against teams like Fiorentina, Lyon and Liverpool, that’s not exactly disastrous.
There are two main reasons to explain the sensation of Hungary’s most successful team of the 21st century. One is the combination of András Herczeg (ex-Debrecen Youth Coach/Assistant Coach and now current Head Coach) and the constant success of developing youth players. Throughout the “noughties” Debrecen produced more than 10 players through their youth system who went on to play for the Hungarian national team, most notably Balázs Dzsudzsák, and countless more who played or who are currently playing for Hungary at various youth levels. The other explanation is the constant shrewd signings, with the backing of an extremely solid financial base, which gives them a huge advantage over most of the other teams in NB1. Within the last 10 years, three of Hungary’s top 4 most successful clubs have had some sort of financial problems (Újpest, Honvéd and Ferencvaros), which shows just how vital Debrecen’s financial backing has been to their constant achievements. While MTK, even though they may be rich and have a solid financial backing, their chairman doesn’t like to spend money on the club, which no longer makes them a force within the Hungarian league.
Shrewd signings down the years getting players who didn’t make it elsewhere like Róbert Feczesin, Péter Halmosi, Leandro, Igor Bogdanović, Gergely Rudolf, Ibrahim Sidibe and Norbert Csernyánszki show just how good the scouting system is down at Debrecen. In addition, current players like Zsolt Laczkó, Mbengono Yannick and Péter Czvitkovics all who were signed from other Hungarian teams are now important players in the Loki side. This shows that also with their financial state they can tempt other Hungarian based players with more lucrative wage packets.
In addition, they have the best and most loyal fans in the country - and I am saying this as a Haladás fan. Throughout the years, even through the bad times they have had one of the best attendances in NB1, and they aren’t as fickle as the bigger clubs like Ferencvaros and MTK
Loki’s display last Thursday night against the Italian giants Sampdoria shows just how far this once railway club has come. The game ended 1-0 to Sampdoria, thanks to a soft penalty that was converted by Italian international, Giampaolo Pazzini. To say Debrecen were “unlucky” to come away with a 1-0 loss would be a huge understatement. Loki probably had the better chances during the game and if it wasn’t for two outstanding saves from the Sampdoria keeper, they could have left Genoa with at least a draw, possibly a win.
Admittedly, in the first Europa League game of the group, they lost 5-0, but were not embarrassed. I know it’s only if’s and but’s but it seriously could and probably should have been 1-1 at Half Time, after Péter Czvitkovics hit the post just before Metalist got their 2nd goal, and soon after that, Kabát was sent off very harshly for a late challenge. Then as Loki were chasing the game, 2-0 down with 10 men, three counter-attacking goals made the score line look like Debrecen were only here to make up the numbers.
This team (yes it doesn’t have the glamour of Gergely Rudolf, Róbert Feczesin and Zoltán Szélesi ), I think, has the capability of providing a few shocks in this Europa League campaign starting with PSV on October 21st at home. Even though their domestic form hasn’t been that great of late, Debrecen are still the favourites to retain the title and make it six titles in 7 years. After a poor start to the season by their standards, they only sit 6 points off top place Videoton, the team that took Debrecen so far last year.
You can get the latest updates from Hungary by following Tomasz on twitter @HungariaFootbal