England vs Hungary. UEFA Nations League Group A3.
England suffer their biggest home defeat in 94 years as they capitulate to a 4-0 beating at the hands of Hungary at Molineux; Gareth Southgate's side remain winless in the Nations League after four of their six games and are now facing the prospect of relegation from the top tier
Wednesday 15 June 2022 06:10, UK
England remain bottom and winless in the Nations League after a miserable 4-0 home defeat to Hungary at Molineux.
A goal in each half from Roland Sallai was enough to put Hungary on course for their first victory in this fixture on English soil since the historic 6-3 win at Wembley in 1953. Zsolt Nagy and Daniel Gazdag confirmed it to spark angry boos from the crowd.
The ignominy was underlined when John Stones was red carded late on - but by that stage defeat was already inevitable. It is a result that might not resonate down the ages quite as strongly as that 1953 defeat but it still spells huge problems for Gareth Southgate.
England: Ramsdale (4), Walker (5), Stones (3), Guehi (5), James (6), Phillips (4), Bellingham (6), Gallagher (6), Bowen (5), Kane (5), Saka (5)
Subs: Sterling (5), Mount (5), Foden (5), Maguire (n/a).
Hungary: Dibusz (7), Lang (7), Orban (7), At Szalai (7), Fiola (7), Schafer (7), Styles (7), Nagy (9), Szoboszlai (7), Sallai (9), Ad Szalai (7).
Subs: Nagy (7), Gazdag (7), Adam (8), Nego (6).
Man of the match: Roland Sallai.
His team looked disjointed throughout and now face the possibility of relegation from the top tier of the Nations League. More worryingly, their form has deserted them in a World Cup year. These four fixtures have yielded no wins and just the one goal - a penalty.
But this was not just a failure in front of goal but a historic collapse - the biggest home defeat that England have suffered in 94 years.
Southgate had spoken of his dismay at watching his England play at a near empty Molineux because of the crowd restrictions on Saturday evening, but the ground was transformed on Tuesday night, the players emerging to a rapturous reception. There was hope then.
For Hungary, it looked set to be a hostile occasion, their anthem booed by a large section of supporters before being drowned out by chanting. That referenced the incident last year when England players were racially abused during an international in Budapest.
Gareth Southgate made nine changes to the team that drew with Italy as only Aaron Ramsdale and Reece James retained their places.
Harry Kane returned to captain the side while there were opportunities for Marc Guehi, Jarrod Bowen and Conor Gallagher.
For a period, with the sun lighting up the stands, it looked like the fast start that Southgate had hoped for would follow. Fine combination play led by Reece James, playing at left-back, resulted in Jarrod Bowen having a headed chance that was blocked by Nagy.
But it was Hungary who made the breakthrough with their first opening. Harry Kane failed to clear a free-kick clipped in from the left and Sallai was left free to ram the ball past Aaron Ramsdale from close range. Molineux was stunned. England were behind again.
It could have been worse soon after when James had to head the ball off his own line to keep the deficit down to one. England broke up the field immediately but Bowen failed to spot Kane free in the middle and the opportunity was wasted. It was not happening.
Keeping the ball has been a concern for England at their worst but after having 59 per cent of the ball against Italy, Southgate's side had 71 per cent of it in the first half without finding the net. Possession without incision. Over-reliance on Kane. Now familiar issues.
England changed their shape in the second half, going to three at the back. James sent in a cross from the right. Jude Bellingham almost found Kane after a fine run. Kane's clever pass just eluded Bukayo Saka. In theory, it was fluid. In practice, it was not functioning.
Southgate sent for Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Phil Foden but when the goal came it went to Hungary - inspired by a substitute of their own. Martin Adam won possession off Kalvin Phillips and found Sallai who beat Ramsdale again with a low shot.
Kane did hit the crossbar with a tricky headed opportunity but it spoke volumes for their lack of creativity against Marco Rossi's well-organised side that it was as close as England came. In contrast, Hungary were buoyant, Nagy slamming home a third from distance.
That sparked chants of 'You don't know what you're doing' aimed at Southgate and they barely skipped a beat when Stones received a harsh second yellow card for a collision with Daniel Gazdag. The Hungary man rounded off the scoring not long after.
It was that kind of night. Southgate will be hoping it is not that kind of year. A win here was supposed to help carry some optimism into the new season, one that brings with it a World Cup in November. Instead, he is facing a debate about his future. A team in disarray.
"I cannot dress up what has happened tonight in any way, shape or form," said Southgate afterwards.
"I did not get the balance right.
"We have some very good young players but they need experienced players around them. When the game started to go against them tonight, I did not put the leaders around them.
"I could not put [Declan] Rice out there again, I could not put [Harry] Maguire out there again. Well, I could. But if they got a serious injury and missed the winter I would be kicking myself.
"In a difficult situation, you need experience around you to navigate those kind of games. That is the balance that we did not have tonight.
"The responsibility lies with me."
"The English press should understand that these results can happen," said Rossi, the Hungary boss.
"They did a lot. They kept 65 per cent possession. It was not because they did not produce the effort. I know losing to Hungary 4-0 is not the same as losing to Brazil or Argentina. It is difficult to accept for everyone but I think Southgate already proved to be quite a good coach.
"Tonight, everything did not go the right way for them but they are already at the top level and they must only follow the track they are on now because I am convinced they will give you a lot of joy at the next World Cup. I am sure of that."
After the culmination of this month's Nations League camp, England will next convene in September ahead of the two remaining group stage matches.
The Three Lions face Italy at the San Siro on September 23 before hosting Germany three days later at Wembley.
Southgate will submit a long list of players to FIFA on Friday October 21, but the England manager is expected to announce his final World Cup 23-man squad on either November 9-10. The FIFA deadline is Monday November 14.
England will depart for Qatar on Tuesday November 15 before they face Iran in their opening World Cup group game on November 21 at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha.