After each side lost their opening game, both now come into this high-stakes fixture in buoyant mood, as the Hungarians held on for a draw against France last weekend, while Joachim Low’s men beat holders Portugal 4-2.
In perhaps the most entertaining game so far at this summer’s finals, on Saturday, Germany came from a goal behind to put in an attacking display reminiscent of their lauded 2006 World Cup team – keeping them in the mix to progress from the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’.
Led by the marauding wide pair of Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens – with the latter scoring the fourth against defending champions Portugal from the former’s pinpoint cross – the Germans brushed aside doubts which lingered following an opening loss to old foes France.
No secret to followers of free-flowing Serie A side Atalanta, wing-back Gosens captured previously sceptical hearts and minds with a Man of the Match performance at Munich’s Allianz Arena. With 12 goals and six assists from the left flank for the Bergamo club last season, the man who worked his way up through the Dutch football system and has never played in the Bundesliga weighed in with a typically energetic contribution, despite sapping heat in the Bavarian capital.
As a result of that morale-boosting success, Germany will now certainly go through if they can beat Hungary this week, or if they draw and France do not lose against Portugal in the other Group F fixture to be played concurrently. In fact, Die Nationalelf will actually finish first if they win and France do not, thereby qualifying for the knockout stages of the Euros for a fourth time in succession.
Having won the tournament in 1996, the Germans then failed to make it out of the group stage in 2000 and 2004, but finished as runners-up at Euro 2008 before making the semis in the two most recent editions.
To emulate, or perhaps even surpass, such recent achievements, 2014 World Cup-winner Low will continue his final quest for continental glory on Wednesday, having seen his team transformed in the space of 90 magical minutes.
After Attila Fiola achieved national hero status with his goal in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with France, his underestimated Hungarian teammates can now dream of joining him, by escaping a group which appeared impossible to negotiate in the pre-tournament build-up.
The journeyman wing-back fired Hungary into the lead just before the break in Budapest – holding off the French defence to slot home a ferociously celebrated goal – and though Antoine Griezmann later managed to salvage a point for the world champions, Hungary can now go through in second place if they win on Wednesday and Portugal lose.
Even if they were to win and Portugal win, second place would be decided on goal difference; while Marco Rossi’s men will finish third if they win and the other game is drawn.
In their second consecutive finals – the Magyars’ 2016 appearance was their first since 1972 and their only major tournament since the 1986 World Cup – the nation ranked 37th in the world are, therefore, still in with a shot of defying the odds and reaching the last 16 like five years ago. However, unanimously expected to end their campaign with an early exit, the rank outsiders – whose 11-game unbeaten streak was only ended at the hands of the Portuguese – will have to produce a seismic shock to do so.
Against an apparently resurgent Germany, they will encounter many familiar faces, as several of the top Hungarian players ply their trade in the Bundesliga.
Born in Kaiserslautern, current RB Leipzig defender Willi Orban has both German and Hungarian citizenship, and despite being capped as a German Under-21 international, he made his debut for the land of his ancestors in 2018. Other Bundesliga boys include goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, captain Adam Szalai – who has represented Stuttgart, Mainz, Schalke, Hoffenheim and Hannover in the German top flight – and Freiburg’s Roland Sallai.
Intriguingly, this will be the two nations’ first competitive meeting since the infamous 1954 World Cup final, which was won 3-2 by West Germany as they controversially came back from two goals down to claim a first world title.
Like all those decades ago, a stadium packed full with fans has roared them on, as Hungary have hosted Europe’s top nations at the Puskas Arena during an unforgettable start to these finals. Now, though, they must travel to Bavaria for a decisive clash with an increasingly confident German side.