Marco Rossi: The national team is more than only a team now
The Hungarian national team will face Estonia on March 23 and Bulgaria four days later. In an interview with Nemzeti Sport, Marco Rossi, who announced the squad for the international matches and the European Championship qualifiers, talked about the painful injuries, the rookies, and the pressure on the team.
|Unity is strength: under Marco Rossi, Roland Sallai excels in his national team jersey (Photo: Csaba Dömötör)|
– Did putting the squad together cause you any problems?
– Unfortunately, yes – the national team head coach said in response to our query. – We've had a number of problems recently: some players are missing because of injury while others have little or no playing time in their clubs. But that's the way it is, we accept it, it's part of football. We're not complaining, we're not making excuses, we just want to put together the strongest team we can. Patrik Demjén, Krisztián Hegyi, Kevin Csoboth and Barnabás Varga are four rookies who have been invited to the team - because they have earned it. This is a national team where players can't get in by playing well in one or two games and then disappearing for two or three. Only those who play good football for a long period of time earn the trust.
March 27, 8.45pm:
June 17, 6pm:
June 20, 8.45pm:
September 7, 8.45pm:
October 14, 8.45pm:
October 17, 8.45pm:
November 16, 8.45pm:
November 19, 3pm:
– When appointing the goalkeepers, you might have lingered for a long time with your staff...
– Dénes Dibusz's place is unquestionable, but Péter Gulácsi is injured, Péter Szappanos is out of the first team squad of Honvéd, and Balázs Tóth is on the bench at Puskás Akadémia. Patrik Demjén became a key player for ZTE and has shown excellent performance for weeks, so everything was in his favor. Krisztián Hegyi plays for West Ham United, he is in a good position at the age of 20. However, it is no secret that we are counting on him as our third goalkeeper, he is more of a man of the future.
– Who do you miss the best from midfield?
– András Schäfer, Callum Styles and Zsolt Nagy. All three are very important links in the team, I hope we can replace them properly. Although I'd be happy to be 30 again, János Ferenczi is not young anymore, but he could replace Zsolt Nagy. But we know him, not to mention that since Srđan Blagojević took over the club in Debrecen he's been playing really well. Kevin Csoboth has also been outstanding, and he has exceptional speed on the pitch - there is probably no faster player in NB I at the moment. As for Barnabas Varga, it's great that he leads the top scorers' list with 17 goals, and on top of that he understands the game, serves his teammates well and is an outstandingly good header.
– So, is there no cause for concern ahead of the matches against Estonia and Bulgaria?
– I would be more relaxed if András Schäfer and the others were available, but I have full confidence in the players that we start training with on Monday. Both matches will be important, especially the second one, as we have a European Championship qualifier against the Bulgarians. Although I can't promise that we will win, what I can promise is that we will do our best to win.
– Does the result of the preparation match against Estonia not matter?
– Of course, it does! For the national team, the result is always important, in fact, it's primary - even in preparation matches, even when there is a chance to test and practice. The game against Estonia is also good for us because the national team played last time on November 20. I would add that this is the period I like the least because it is the longest time between two games. Months are passing by without the opportunity to meet with the players and prepare for the tasks ahead. So, we always have to go over and over what worked before, the automatisms have to return. I hope that the game against Estonia will be enough to do that.
– Do you not want to play all your trump cards against Estonia?
– There will be no significant difference between the starting eleven against Estonia and Bulgaria. I can even tell you that, as things stand, there will be one or two changes to the squad at most. The point of the first game is to prepare properly for the qualifiers for the European Championship, so it wouldn't make much sense to have two completely different teams against the Estonians and the Bulgarians. Also, when we were looking for a training partner, we chose Estonia for a reason: they have a similar style of play to Bulgaria, and both teams usually play with three center-backs. The Bulgarian team has a new head coach, Mladen Krstajić, who has changed the strategy and the attitude; the team now plays much more aggressive football than before. The Serbian coach has managed the Bulgarian national team in four matches so far, three of them in a three-five-two and one in a three-four-three formation. Something tells me that Bulgaria will not retreat, or at least defend deep, in front of their goal, and I can even imagine that they will try to put us under pressure. Our focus must be on preparing for every eventuality as thoroughly as possible in the time remaining before the match. There will be room for experimentation against the Estonians but against the Bulgarians there won't be any. If we make mistakes in the first game, we must learn from them quickly. I stress this because I know two things about myself for sure. One is that I am not a phenom, and the other is that I am not trying to be one. If I have achieved anything as a coach, it is also because I have learned from my mistakes most of the time.
– Let's look at the positives: several members of the squad are playing in good form.
– That is true. Willi Orbán and Dominik Szoboszlai are not only leaders of the national team, but also of RB Leipzig – I'm only a little concerned that they both play 90 minutes every three days. We have to take that into account, especially in the first game. From Milos Kerkez, Endre Botka, Attila Szalai and Ádám Nagy to Roland Sallai, I could list players whom we regularly placed confidence into. I think most players in the squad are in good shape, which is definitely a reason for confidence.
– And what about Hungary being drawn from the first pot?
– What we've shown on the pitch over the last two and a half years has earned us a favorable position going into the draw. We were very happy about that but we're still standing with two feet on the ground. Many people expect us to qualify, and of course, that is our goal, but nothing is given for free in football. I don't deny that our group looks a little easier than it did in the last qualifying round, when we were up against Croatia, Wales and Slovakia, but we must remember that three of our rivals are Balkan nations and they will be fighting to the last minute. I have no doubt that we are in for some tough matches, but we are up for the challenge. But the fact remains that we have a responsibility.
– And pressure, too?
– Yes, but what this team has achieved since September 2020 tells me that it can cope with everything. Even if being favorites is not always a rewarding task next to Serbia that's participated in the World Cup. I accept that the fans expect us to qualify, but I have been trying to calm the mood since the draw in Frankfurt. We are facing rivals that fight for every ball like they are fighting for their lives, so every match will be a huge battle.
– Do you not worry about your team because of that?
– No. As I've said, we have made huge progress in the last two and a half years. The Hungarian national team is more than only a team now. The squad is not made up of 'just' good footballers, but of guys who fight for each other, the fans and their country. For them, the jersey is truly sacred - and they deserve it, too.
One day before his 54th birthday, on September 8, 2018, Marco Rossi managed the national team for the first time – and now he is preparing for his 50th match against Estonia! When asked by MTI at Tuesday's press conference about the jubilee match, the 58-year-old coach's voice was full of emotion: „When I sit down on the national team bench - which I rarely do... - I always feel a sense of responsibility towards the players, the fans and Hungary. When I first took charge of the national team against Finland, I never thought I would have so many matches under my belt. The fact that I am about to play my 50th match is a great achievement not only for me but also for my staff. In a country whose national team has made history in international football, I am in fourth place in the ranking of captains, with only three legends, Lajos Baróti, Gusztáv Sebes and Kálmán Mészöly, ahead of me. I don't need to say what an honor this is for me. Can you wish me 50 more matches? Thank you, yes, but I want to concentrate on the next two for the moment. My contract with MLSZ runs until 2025, so we're unlikely to play another fifty games before then, but if I complete my contract, I'll feel successful. But where is that just yet?!
March 23, 7.30pm: Hungary-Estonia
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING
March 27, 8.45pm: Hungary-Bulgaria
HUNGARIAN NATIONAL 25-MEMBER SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS: Patrik Demjén (Zalaegerszegi TE FC), Dénes Dibusz (Ferencvárosi TC), Krisztián Hegyi (West Ham United – England)
DEFENDERS: Botond Balogh (Parma – Italy), Endre Botka (Ferencvárosi TC), Ádám Lang (Omonia – Cyprus), Attila Mocsi (Zalaegerszegi TE FC), Willi Orbán (RB Leipzig – Germany), Attila Szalai (Fenerbahce – Turkey)
MIDFIELDERS: Bendegúz Bolla (Grasshoppers – Switzerland), János Ferenczi (Debreceni VSC), Attila Fiola (Mol Fehérvár FC), Zsolt Kalmár (Dunaszerdahelyi AC 1904 – Slovakia), Milos Kerkez (AZ – Netherlands), László Kleinheisler (Panathinaikos – Greece), Ádám Nagy (Pisa – Italy), Loïc Négo (Mol Fehérvár FC), Bálint Vécsei (Ferencvárosi TC)
FORWARDS: Martin Ádám (Ulsan Hyundai – South Korea), Kevin Csoboth (Újpest FC), Dániel Gazdag (Philadelphia Union – United States), András Németh (Hamburger SV – Germany), Roland Sallai (SC Freiburg – Germany), Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig – Germany), Barnabás Varga (Paksi FC)
HEAD COACH: Marco Rossi
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP, 2024
GROUP A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
GROUP B: Netherlands, France, Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
GROUP C: Italy, England, Ukraine, Northern Macedonia, Malta
GROUP D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
GROUP E: Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
GROUPS F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
GROUP G: HUNGARY, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
GROUP H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
GROUP I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
GROUP J: Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein