Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Poland and Hungary bring historic warnings for Southgate

Poland and Hungary bring historic warnings for Southgate

MANCHESTER (Reuters) - England were drawn with Poland and Hungary in their 2022 World Cup qualifying group on Monday - setting up encounters which recall two of the most famous and traumatic nights in the Three Lions’ history.

In 1973, England were held to a 1-1 draw by Poland at Wembley which meant they failed to qualify for the following year’s World Cup -- the first time they had been unable to reach the finals.

The heroics of Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, who before the game had been described as a “clown” by Brian Clough, working as a television pundit, lingered for the English, who also failed to reach the 1978 finals in Argentina.

“There is a great history with that fixture,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “There was a spell when we seemed to draw them all the time.

“I remember some of them, I’m old enough to be in that bracket. The Tomaszewski game is obviously a legendary one,” he added.

Indeed, this will be the seventh time that the two countries meet in World Cup qualifying -- most recently for the 2014 competition in Brazil as well as for the 2006, 1998, 1994, 1990 editions and that doomed 1974 campaign.

Hungary produced England’s first ever defeat at Wembley to non-British opponents with their 6-3 win in 1953. The victory by the ‘Mighty Magyars’ forced some major tactical rethinking in the English game, especially after Hungary won 7-1 in a ‘return’ fixture in Budapest a year later.

“I’ve heard about those games and they were one of the leading nations at the time,” Southgate said.

The Hungarian team were predicted by many to win the 1954 World Cup but lost to West Germany in the final and the team broke-up in the aftermath of the 1956 revolution in the country.

Hungarian football went into decline in the 1990’s but there are strong signs of recovery with the team qualifying again for the European Championships after a solid display in France in 2016.

“They’ve got some very good young players coming through actually, they had some good results in the last European Championships and had a good campaign in the recent Nations League,” said Southgate.

The England manager believes the chance to repeat those feats will fire up their opponents.

“All of those nights with England are the opportunity for countries to make history. It’s always an opportunity for those opponents to not only play well to try to beat England but also put themselves on the map with Premier League clubs as well, so there’s always lots of incentives for our opposition,” he said.

Group I also includes Albania, Andorra and San Marino.