Friday, June 14, 2024

‘He chose what he felt inside his heart’ – Hungary boss fine with Sammie Szmodics’ decision to play for Ireland

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And their Italian-born boss says he wishes Szmodics well in his career, once Tuesday’s meeting of the two nations is out of the way.

At 28, Szmodics was a late recruit to international football when he was capped for the first time at any level in Ireland’s friendly at home to Belgium in March.

Given he also qualified for Hungary through the grandparent rule there was interest but despite conversations, Szmodics chose Ireland.

“What happened was that I simply asked, through our team manager and through Adam Nagy, who was a former teammate of Szmodics, to get in contact with him, just for general information,” Hungary coach Marco Rossi said at his team’s pre-match press conference in Dublin on Monday.

“Suddenly after a couple of days, this interest was in the press. What we knew was that Szmodics decided to answer in a positive way the call to the Irish national team, it’s absolutely logical.

“What I feel that to play in the national team – Irish, Hungarian, any national team – it’s important to have this sense of belonging, it’s not just for an opportunity.

“In the end he chose what he felt inside his heart and it’s understandable, I understand his position and I have nothing to complain about, he has played a fantastic season, scored like never in his career and I wish him to continue that into the future but in the next match, not Tuesday,” he added.

Having requested a clash with Ireland to prepare for a meeting with Scotland at Euro 2024, Hungary come to Dublin on a high, with a record of 14 games unbeaten while Irish morale is low after a long run without a win.

But Rossi, who was in charge for a tense 0-0 draw between the countries in Budapest in 2021, says saw signs in the March games – where his side narrowly beat Turkey and Kosovo in friendlies while Ireland failed to score against Belgium and Switzerland – to have some concerns.

“From what we have seen in our matches in March, we had some difficulties, especially in the first half in both matches, we will try to avoid these difficulties in the match against Ireland,” Rossi said.

“What we have seen of Ireland is despite the fact they played against top teams in Europe, they played with huge positivity, going into duels all game long, they played good matches and didn’t have too many options up front but played well, defended well.

“They were able to compete at the same level as their opponents, two teams who will be important opponents for everybody at the Euros. We are waiting for a really tough opponent on Tuesday.

“We know that Ireland are a difficult team to play against, they played well in the last two games against Switzerland and Belgium, it was complicated for the opponent to win and that’s why Belgium didn’t win.

“It’s a quite physical team, with players used to playing in the Premier League and Championship so the level is high, the intensity will be high, it will be similar to the style of play of Scotland more than Switzerland and Germany and it will be a good test for us to prepare ourselves for the Euros.

“We expect difficult moments in the match but it’s important these moments come.”

Sunderland midfielder Callum Styles, who is eligible through the parentage rule, needed to have his memory jogged by the Irish Independent at the press conference when he tried to pick out the main threat from the home side but in his time in England he’s seen enough from Irish players to cause concern.

“I played against quite a few of them in the Championship, they have good qualities in central midfield and attacking positions, they are very agile. I think if we stop their playmaker – I forget his name briefly, it will come to me,” he says before being reminded of the name of Ireland’s No. 6.

“Cullen, Josh Cullen, if we stop the play going through him – if he plays – we take away one of their biggest strengths and we can then dictate to them. They will be quite physical so we have to deal with that and just play our game.”

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