Austria 0-2 Hungary: Mighty Magyars emulate their ancestors in superb victory in Bordeaux
Szalai celebrates with the travelling Hungarian fans after ending his 18 month goal drought. (Photo: Reuters)

Two nations with their histories inter-twined met in Bordeaux. The Austro-Hungarian empire had been at the heart of European politics for over two hundred years before being carved apart at the French palace of Versailles in the aftermath of World War One and. once again, the two nations were at the heart of French and Europe's affairs but on this occasion, sporting, in the opening matchday of Group F at Euro 2016

In a close fought first half, the much fancied Austria had shaved the proceedings. National pin-up David Alaba had crashed an effort against the post early on, whilst Zlatko Junuzovic and Marc Janko came close to breaking the deadlock. 

Yet, it was left to the Magyars to emulate their ancestors of old that had taken the European stage by storm some fifty years before. First, Ádám Szalai poked the Hungarian's ahead after neat link up play before Zoltan Stieber rounded off the event late on.

At times, the tag of the Mighty Magyars has acted as a weight on the shoulders of the Budapest natives but in the South West French city the 42,000 spectators had witnessed a superb team performance, that would have well suited the side of Puskas, Kocsis and Hidegkuti. 

That was what the game came down to in the end. The many stars of the Austrian side acted just as that, as individuals, whilst Bernd Storck's Hungary side came together to craft a hard fought opening game victory. Storck had masterminded the Hungarians' qualification for the tournament and called upon the spirit of Greece at Euro 2004, and his fellow compatriot Otto Rehhagel, to press and harass their opposition and they did just that as they set themselves up well for the remainder of the competition.

Little between the two sides

Marcel Koller remained loyal to the vast majority of the side that had cruised to Euro 2016 qualification unbeaten, one of only three sides to do so along with England and Italy; an impressive feat for a side with little international pedigree. Only Watford's Sebastian Prödl was left out by the Swiss coach, replaced by Martin Hinteregger.

The continuity afforded by this allowed the Alpine nation to start the stronger of the two neighboring nations and it was almost the perfect start as David Alaba rattled the post with the game a little over sixty seconds old. The Bayern Munich star, and Austrian national icon, picked up the ball from deep and unleashed a long range effort that cannoned back off the upright, with the Hungarian goalkeeper, Gábor Király, beaten at all ends.

Incidentally the 40-year-old became the oldest player to ever appear at a European Championship, after appearing in the opening Group F clash after making his debut some 17 years ago also against Austria.

Das Team had another chance, once again the form of Alaba, although this time Király was at hand and got his body behind the stinging snap-shot from the Austrian captain. 

Yet despite this early pressure there was little to separate the two sides at the midway point in the half. As expected and well reported prior to the tournament, Hungary were solid and hard to break down; exactly what you would expect from a side that conceded only nine goals throughout qualification. Whilst for their opposition, it was Julian Baumgartlinger in his usual energetic self that stifled the Hungary attack. The defensive midfielder excelled with Bundesliga side 1. FSV Mainz 05 last season before earning a move to Bayer Leverkusen and was replicating the same form with his national side. 

However, as we have witnessed throughout the early stages of Euro 2016 a game can turn on its head in a matter of moments and this was certainly the case at the Stade Matmut-Atlantique, as both sides threatened to break the deadlock before the halftime interval. First, Király did well to get a strong hand to Zlatko Junuzović's skidding half volley, before Marko Arnautovic was inches from setting up the hefty 6ft 5" figure of Marc Janko whilst Martin Harnik fluffed his lines at the far post, after the well worked Austrian counter-attacking move. 

At the other end, the side at their first European Championship in over 34 years, had a chance of their own. Werder Bremen's László Kleinheisler picked up the ball on the edge of the box and reversed for star right midfielder, Balázs Dzsudzsák, in acres of space. Unfortunately for the 29 year old, his touch didn't match the pass and allowed Aleksandar Dragović to close the angle before he shot narrowly wide. 

Renewed Hungarian impetus

Bernd Storck side emerged from the half time break full of attacking impetus. Dzsudzsák had another effort, this time with much more accuracy and forced Robert Almer into an acrobatic save from some 35 yards out. Almost a carbon copy to how the first period had begun, although this time it was Hungary that nearly took the lead. 

Unfortunately for das Team, Austria, Junuzović limped off with half an hour to go and looks a doubt for their remaining group games. RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer was the man to replace him.

Up until this point, both sides had been reduced to speculative long range efforts in a match that had been dominated by the defenders. However the attacking impetus shown by the Hungarian's was swiftly rewarded early in the second half, as they took the lead courtesy of Ádám Szalai. The burly striker combined well with his fellow Bundesliga player László Kleinheisler, before his outstretched foot tapped the ball under the onrushing Almer. 

The goal looked a good omen for the Magyar's. Whenever the current Hannover 96 man has scored for his national side, they have gone on to win the game. It was also his first goal for any side, since December 2014.

Szalai breaks the deadlock and Austrian hearts | Credit: Reuters
Szalai breaks the deadlock and Austrian hearts. | Credit: Reuters

Historic victory in Bordeaux

Things soon went from bad to worse, for Marcel Koller and Austria when they were swiftly reduced to ten men as Aleksandar Dragović was sent for an early bath. The Dynamo Kyiv central defender saw yellow in the first forty-five for a deliberate foul on the goalscorer, before receiving his marching orders for a late tackle in a goal mouth scramble. 

Touted by many as the team to follow Group F favourites Portugal into the knockout phase, perhaps Austria lacked the experience at the top level to manage the game. The Austrian side hadn't emerged for the second half, and if anything it looked like the Hungarians would extend their lead. The Austria Vienna goalkeeper, Almer, however did his upmost to keep the scoreline only one goal apart as he tipped a superb Krisztián Németh strike that was destined for the bottom corner around the post.

Das Team pushed forwards searching for an equaliser, leaving acres of space for their opposites to counter attack. A chance Storck's side duely took as they rounded off a superb victory in Bordeaux. An Austrian corner and the resultant second ball was cleared and 1. FC Nürnberg's Zoltan Stieber was presented a straight foot-race with Baumgartlinger. The substitute easily galloped away from the Austrian midfielder, who by this point was well run off his feet, before adepthly lofting a superb finish over the helpless Almer. Jubilant scenes from the traveling Hungarian faithful and players, who had been given little chance against their historic neighbors.