England remain bottom and winless in the Nations League after a miserable 4-0 home defeat to Hungary at Molineux.
A goal in each half from Roland Sallai was enough to put Hungary on course for their first victory in this match on English soil since the historic 6-3 victory at Wembley in 1953. Zsolt Nagy and Daniel Gazdag the confirmed to elicit angry boos from the crowd.
The ignominy was underlined when John Stones was shown a late red card – but by this stage defeat was already inevitable. It’s a result that might not resonate as strongly through the ages as that 1953 defeat, but it still poses huge problems for Gareth Southgate.
England: Ramsdale (4), Walker (5), Stones (3), Guehi (5), James (6), Phillips (4), Bellingham (6), Gallagher (6), Bowen (5), Kane (5), Saka (5)
Subtitles: Sterling (5), Mount (5), Foden (5), Maguire (n/a).
Hungary: Dibusz (7), Lang (7), Orban (7), At Szalai (7), Fiola (7), Schafer (7), Styles (7), Nagy (9), Szoboszlai (7), Sallai (9) , Ad Szalai (7).
Subtitles: Nagy (7), Gazdag (7), Adam (8), Nego (6).
Man of the match: Roland Salai.
His side have looked scrappy throughout and are now facing the possibility of relegation from the top tier of the Nations League. More worryingly, their form has abandoned them in a World Cup year. These four matches yielded no wins and only one goal – a penalty.
But it was not just a failure in front of goal, but a historic collapse – the biggest home defeat England have suffered in 94 years.
How England’s historic defeat unfolded
Southgate had expressed dismay at seeing his England play in an almost empty Molineux due to crowd restrictions on Saturday night, but the ground turned on Tuesday night as the players were greeted with enthusiasm. There was hope then.
For Hungary, it seemed like a hostile occasion, their anthem booed by much of the fans before being drowned out by chants. This was in reference to the incident last year when England players were racially abused at an international match in Budapest.
Gareth Southgate made nine changes to the side which drew with Italy as only Aaron Ramsdale and Reece James retained their places.
Harry Kane returned as team captain as there were opportunities for Marc Guehi, Jarrod Bowen and Conor Gallagher.
For a while, with the sun shining on the stands, it looked like the quick start that Southgate had hoped for would follow. A fine combination play led by Reece James, playing at left-back, gave Jarrod Bowen a chance with a header which was blocked by Nagy.
But it was Hungary who made the breakthrough with their first opening. Harry Kane failed to clear a free-kick cut from the left and Sallai was left free to slot the ball past Aaron Ramsdale from close range. Molineux was amazed. England were again behind.
It could have been worse soon after when James had to head the ball off his own line to reduce the deficit to one. England immediately split the field but Bowen failed to spot a free Kane in the middle and the chance was wasted. It wasn’t happening.
Keeping the ball was a concern for England at their worst, but after having 59% of the ball against Italy, Southgate’s side had 71% in the first half without finding the net. Possession without incision. Overreliance on Kane. Now familiar problems.
England changed form in the second half, moving to three at the back. James sent in a cross from the right. Jude Bellingham almost found Kane after a great run. Kane’s clever pass narrowly escaped Bukayo Saka. In theory, it was smooth. In practice, it did not work.
Southgate dispatched Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Phil Foden but when the goal came it went to Hungary – inspired by a substitute of their own. Martin Adam got hold of Kalvin Phillips and found Sallai who beat Ramsdale again with a low shot.
Kane hit the crossbar with a tricky header but that speaks volumes about their lack of creativity against Marco Rossi’s well-organised side who were as close as England came. On the other hand, Hungary were dynamic, Nagy slamming a third from distance.
It sparked chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” aimed at Southgate and they barely skipped a beat when Stones was shown a second harsh yellow card for colliding with Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian completed the scoring soon after.
It was that kind of night. Southgate hopes it’s not that kind of year. A win here was supposed to help bring some optimism into the new season, which brings with it a World Cup in November. Instead, he faces a debate over his future. A team in disarray.
The Hungarian horror show in England in statistics
- England lost a home game by four or more goals for the first time since March 1928, when they lost 5-1 to Scotland.
- Hungary became the first team to score four goals in an away match against England since the Hungarians themselves won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953.
- It was England’s first defeat by four or more goals since May 1964, when they lost 5-1 to Brazil in a friendly.
- It is only the second time that England have lost by four or more goals without scoring, with a 5-0 loss to Yugoslavia in May 1958, and the first time at home.
- England have gone four straight matches without a win for the first time since a run of five in 2014.
- England scored just one goal in a four-game span for the first time since a run between October 2006 and March 2007.
What’s next for England?
After the culmination of this month’s Nations League camp, England next meet in September ahead of the two remaining group stage fixtures.
The Three Lions take on Italy at the San Siro on September 23 before hosting Germany three days later at Wembley.
Southgate will submit a long list of players to FIFA on Friday October 21, but the England manager is expected to announce his final 23-man squad for the World Cup on November 9-10. The FIFA deadline is Monday, November 14.
England will depart for Qatar on Tuesday November 15 before facing Iran in their World Cup opener on November 21 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.