On-song Bundesliga trio force re-evaluation of Hungary
By Ed Dove
TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - Hungary's opening Euro 2016 victory over Austria was inspired by three players who put troubled seasons behind them to secure one of the results of the tournament so far and change the perception of Bernd Storck's side.
Goalscorers Adam Szalai and Zoltan Stieber, as well as man of the match Lazlo Kleinheisler, all encountered rejection or disappointment in the Bundesliga last season but transformed Hungary's prospects before they face Iceland on Saturday.
Hungary's team spirit, unity and work ethic were known before the Euros, but few had anticipated the vibrancy and offensive zest they showed to beat fancied Austria 2-0, securing their first win at a major tournament since 1986.
The victory was born in the Bundesliga, as Szalai, Stieber and Kleinheisler overcame tricky seasons to outshine Austria's would be star man, David Alaba of Bayern Munich.
"Compare the individuals in their team and ours," Storck told journalists in Toulouse after his side's opening triumph. "It's clear who the favourites were."
Szalai ended an international goal drought that stretched back to October 2014 when he struck the opener, having failed to score last season in the Bundesliga, having been loaned out by Hoffenheim in January to Hanover who finished bottom.
"I'd like to compliment Szalai," added Storck. "He showed he's up for it in training and was rewarded with a great goal."
Stieber, who added an eye-catching second late on, played only six minutes for Hamburg, before being sent on loan to second-tier Nuernberg, where he made just three league starts.
"Stieber was rewarded for never giving up," added Storck. "Even at Nuernberg he never stopped, so I want to compliment him too."
However, his greatest praise was reserved for the feisty Kleinheisler, who stole the show, contributing an assist, despite making just one start for Werder Bremen since signing in January.
"Say what you want about Kleinheisler," Storck added. "He doesn't play so much, although this may have been an advantage for us."
Kleinheisler, in particular, represents a major success story for Storck, who handed the midfielder a surprise call up for the playoff victory over Norway.
"He wasn't playing for Hungary, but I knew him from a young age and you saw how he played," he said.
"I don't know why he doesn't play more. You'd have to ask his coach."
Fuelled by a desire to prove the doubters wrong and repay Storck's faith, the trio of Bundesliga outcasts beat Austria and have their sights on taking Hungary into the last 16.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)