What a mess. Gareth Southgate understood that he needed a win to restore a procedure of calm after a deeply unconvincing start to this Nations League campaign, which had brought two points from the first three ties and one goal; none from open play. What the England manager got was a new and tortuous low-- the heaviest defeat of his near six-year England tenure, the nation's worst home loss since 1928 and a mutiny among the home crowd at Molineux.
The fans had actually started to make for the exits when Roland Sallai scored his second goal of the night to put Hungary 2-0 up, the boos ringing out, and it was at that point that whatever broke down for Southgate and his team.
Formerly, England had actually lacked motivation, coming to look increasingly more unnerved as the chuntering from the home support increased inexorably. Now Hungary put them to the sword, their alternatives rushing on to the pitch as 2 more goals entered. At full-time, they would dance in front of the visiting enclosure, wreathed in smiles, barely able to believe it.
It felt almost surreal when Zsolt Nagy lashed home the 3rd. "You don't understand what you're doing," wailed the fans at Southgate, more of them leaving, hurling abuse as they did.
It was hazardous and even worse was to follow. It had been a dreadful night for John Stones, although he was hardly alone, and the nadir came when he was sent for a severe second yellow card. He did not know that the substitute Daniel Gazdag was behind him; the Hungary player simply faced him.
Southgate reacted by introducing Harry Maguire for Bukayo Saka, which prompted yet more boos. Poor Maguire. "You're getting sacked in the early morning," came the cry from the stands for the manager.
The embarrassment was total when another substitute, Adam Nagy, played a straight pass, Maguire stalled and Kyle Walker chased after back however he could not avoid Gazdag from clipping over Aaron Ramsdale.
Southgate was still in his technical area. At full time, he walked out on to the pitch and-- fearlessly or foolishly-- applauded the crowd. He needed to understand what would come back and he was not disappointed.
Southgate had seen nothing go right from start to finish-- not his 4-3-3 system in the very first half, nor the 3-5-2 after the interval. Too often his players were bullied in the one-on-ones, particularly by the big Hungary No 9, Adam Szalai, and, frequently, their decision-making or end product was poor. Frequently, moves encountered dead ends; the inspiration absent, the pace ponderous.
The closest England pertained to a goal was when Harry Kane looped a header against the crossbar on 77 minutes. He chased down the rebound before crumpling to the ground under no challenge; a lamentable dive that summed things up.
England find themselves starring at transfer from this Nations League group, which would not only be harming in terms of optics but also on a practical level, raising the possibility of a tougher Euro 2024 qualifying draw. The huge, fat concern is what it all means for the World Cup, which starts on 21 November.
It will be a long summer of introspection for Southgate and, afterwards, he has just two more matches before the opening incorporate Qatar-- against Italy and Germany in the Nations League in late September. Things can decipher pretty rapidly in football, particularly in unstable environments such as that which England populate. Southgate had assured last Friday not to overstay his welcome in the job. Those words hung heavy in the Wolverhampton air.
Incredibly, this was England's fourth meeting of the season with Hungary, the previous one having begun the Saturday prior to last, a game that Adam Nagy had actually called "the ordeal in Budapest". He was judging it from an England point of view, Southgate's team having actually been flat in the 1-0 loss. What of this?
England set the tone with the first concession. Adam Lang increased with Stones to meet a Dominik Szoboszlai free-kick and Kane miskicked his attempted clearance to leave the unmarked Sallai with the shooting opportunity. The forward's very first touch was true; he blasted the second past the exposed Ramsdale.
Jarrod Bowen had mistimed his jump on a header at 0-0 and the stress and anxiety in the stands was tangible after the very first goal, in addition to the sense of foreboding due to the fact that Hungary are so hard to break down. When Stones dwelled in possession on 23 minutes, the home crowd shouted. England were on egg shells.
It would have been 2-0 in the 27th minute but for an exceptional goalline clearance by Reece James. When England broke rapidly, Bowen fluffed the final action. England regularly lacked conviction on the ball.
England were booed off at half-time. It is the guideline. Their only other moment of note had actually been when Willi Orban headed a Saka cross towards his own goal to draw a conserve out of Denes Dibusz.
The cat calls would just grow in intensity, beginning when Kalvin Phillips was robbed by the substitute Martin Adam who played in Sallai. The finish was low and lethal. England, though, had fresh depths to plumb.