Home » Pre-Match Analysis: Hungary and Switzerland meet in Euro 2024 opener

Pre-Match Analysis: Hungary and Switzerland meet in Euro 2024 opener

Pre-Match Analysis: Hungary and Switzerland meet in Euro 2024 opener

The opening round of Euro 2024 Group A fixtures sees Hungary face Switzerland, in what could be a pivotal clash in deciding who qualifies to the knockout stages.

Hungary come into the tournament off some very impressive form. Their 2022/23 Nations League campaign saw them finish second in a group containing Italy, England and Germany. A 1-0 win over Germany and an emphatic 4-0 victory against England, showcased the level of improvements made by Marco Rossi‘s side since failing to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

An unbeaten qualifying campaign followed, as they topped Euro 2024 qualification group G with five wins and three draws. This continued on from their strong 2022/23 Nations League campaign, finishing second in a group containing Italy, England and Germany, who all feature among the favourites for Euro 2024. Marco Rossi. However, their 14-game unbeaten streak was ended in the first of their pre-tournament fixtures in a shock 2-1 defeat to Republic of Ireland

Magyarok did fare better in their final preparations, with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Israel. A brace from Barnabás Varga and a goal from Rolland Salai ensured Hungary entered Euro 2024 on a positive note.

Switzerland had a mixed qualifying campaign. After starting with three consecutive wins, they failed to live up to expectations and only recorded one more victory in their remaining seven games, as they qualified 2nd in Group I behind Romania.

The March internationals and Euro 2024 warm-up fixtures have sparked some newfound optimism within the camp and a return to form for the Red Crosses. After demolishing Estonia 4-0, Murat Yakin can also take positives from a battling 1-1 draw versus Austria. These follow on from a victory over the Republic of Ireland and a goalless draw against Denmark in March 2024, and mean the Swiss Nati enter the tournament on a four-game unbeaten streak.

Hungary and Switzerland have previously encountered each other 46 times, with 30 Hungarian victories, in comparison to only 11 for Switzerland. However, it is the Swiss Nati who have reigned victorious in their recent encounters, defeating Hungary 3-2 and 5-2 respectively, during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. 

Rossi is expected to have the full Hungarian squad at his disposal for the Group A opener, though will have been slightly concerned that star man Dominik Szoboszlai was forced off during his side’s 3-0 victory over Israel. The Liverpool midfielder has since declared that it was merely precautionary, and that he will be available for the clash on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Red Crosses will be sweating on the fitness of striker Breel Embolo and midfielder Denis Zakaria, with neither featuring in Switzerland’s two pre-tournament fixtures. Both have been included in the final squad and Yakin will be hoping the AS Monaco pair can play a valuable part for his side during the campaign.

Both sides have lined up in a 3-4-2-1 formation during their final two pre-tournament fixtures, so expect them to continue to do so on Saturday afternoon. Despite starting in the same formation, they both have different tactical set-ups that come from it.

Out of possession, Hungary drop into a 5-4-1 shape, acting as a low block deep in their own half to limit space for the opponent in behind. This causes their opposition to have to try to break through the banked lines, something which Rossi’s men have excelled in preventing.

During the previously mentioned 2022/23 Nations League campaign, Hungary conceded only five times across the six matches despite facing some of international football’s best-ranked sides. During their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, their defensive prowess continued, conceding only seven goals across their eight fixtures.

In possession, Hungary often transition into a 4-1-5 shape, using the front five to overload the opposition’s defence. Operating a central midfield two of Ádám Nagy  and András Schäfer, the left centre-midfielder Schäfer will drop into the left centre-back position with Nagy sitting in front of the back four. The left centre-back, typically Attila Szalai, will then move out to left-back, with the other two of the original back three completing the back four.

This allows Milos Kerkez to push forward into a left wing role, and lets Szoboszlai invert into a free role in the half-spaces. The right wing-back will also push forward to create the front five. 

On the contrary, Switzerland will look to operate more traditionally in their 3-4-2-1 set-up when in possession of the ball.

The two wide centre-backs, Nico Elvedi and Ricardo Rodriguez stretch and push the two wing-backs forward to create overloads alongside the two wingers. Rodriguez, a natural left-back, occupies the same left-sided centre-back role for his club side Torino, and Elvedi has played at right-back and centre-back consistently throughout his career. It is this experience which helps the pair to defend the wide spaces if Switzerland lose possession of the ball and are attacked quickly in transition.

Manuel Akanji operates in the centre of the three and is renowned for his great pace to help cover his teammates if need be. The Manchester City defender is fantastic on the ball, and, in possession, it is he who will look to begin Swiss attacks. Ranked amongst defenders in the 97th percentile for progressive carries, 90th percentile for progressive passes and the 98th percentile for shot-creating actions (all stats via FBref).

(Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

The wing backs pushing forward provides width and allows the two wingers to invert onto their stronger foot. Silvan Widmer has shown his ability to create throughout his career, racking up 59 assists.

On the left flank is Dan Ndoye who has enjoyed a fantastic season at club level, helping Bologna FC qualify for the Champions League. Ndoye typically operates as a winger for his club side, predominately on the right-hand side.

Yakin will look to utilise the 23-year-old’s high work rate and high defensive contributions to allow Ndoye to succeed out of possession at wing-back. In possession, Yakin will look for Ndoye to cause hassle for opposition defenders by using his tremendous direct dribbling and carrying ability. 

Out of possession expect Switzerland to operate with a man-to-man press in a 5-4-1 or 5-2-3 shape, which they have utilised in their last four internationals, conceding only a solitary goal. 

The captains of both sides will be pivotal if either side are to progress throughout the tournament. 

Szoboszlai took over Hungary’s captaincy in September 2022, when Adam Szalai retired from international football. The free role allows the Liverpool midfielder to drop into spaces to receive the ball and use his creativity and passing range to spearhead the Hungarian attack.  He will look to drift into the spaces that the Switzerland set-up can provide, and occupy positions where he can look to punish the Red Crosses.

Szoboszlai is also a goal threat for his national side, scoring 12 times in his 42 international caps. The midfielder has tremendous ball-striking ability, and offers significant threat from his set pieces. It is these set pieces which Switzerland should be wary of, given Hungary scored six goals from set pieces during Euro 2024 qualifying, the most by any team.

Szoboszlai’s opposite counterpart Granit Xhaka, comes into the tournament on the back of a title-winning season for Bayer Leverkusen. Operating next to Remo Freuler as part of the midfield two. Xhaka will look to act as a deep-lying playmaker and showcase his ability to play through the lines. According to FBref, Xhaka currently ranks in the 99th percentile against other midfielders for progressive passes per 90 minutes. The 31-year-old also ranks in the 93rd percentile for shot-creating actions.

If the Swiss Nati are to succeed against Hungary, then they will need Xhaka to demonstrate this progressive prowess in order to break through the Hungarian low block. Xhaka has also had success this season making late runs into the box from midfield. Freuler will sit in front of the defence in order to provide support, enabling Xhaka to make surging runs forward, and he has shown himself to be a potential goal threat in doing so, scoring four times for Bayer Leverkusen this season.

Hungary have shown difficulty in controlling possession during games therefore expect Switzerland to have the majority of the ball during the game.

This also allows Hungary to occupy a more structured shape out of possession, which will help nullify the area of space on the left-hand side that they are often open in transition, due to the rotational in-possession shape.

Switzerland have struggled to score goals in recent times and Yakin will hope that Zeki Amdouni can build upon his promising the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. The young forward scored six times and will be expected to lead the line whilst Embolo continues his return to fitness.

He will be supported by the two inverted wingers, whilst the pushed-on wing-backs will aim to provide width in order to break down the Hungarians’ low block. 

The Swiss Nati will need to be clinical with any chances they do create, as Hungary do not concede many. They will also need to ensure they are resolute in defence, otherwise Hungary will punish them in transition when they win the ball back, counter-attacking quickly, and piling players forward to cause an overload.

The bookmakers currently have Switzerland as favourites over Hungary, but recent form would suggest otherwise, and both sides will fancy their chances in a pivotal game in Group A.