England kicked off the Nations League campaign after a 1-0 loss to Hungary in Budapest

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England started disappointingly in the Nations League campaign in Budapest, when a poor performance resulted in a deserved defeat at hands of Hungary.

England kicked off the Nations League campaign in a disappointing fashion after a 1-0 loss to Hungary in Budapest

The Nations League match was supposed to be held behind closed doors as a Uefa punishment for Hungary’s fans’ racist and homophobic behavior at Euro 2020.

Despite this, the game was played in front of a big audience, primarily made up of schoolchildren who were permitted to attend under Uefa rules, and the youthful fans reveled in a poor England performance and Dominik Szoboszlai’s winning penalty goal when Reece James fouled Zsolt Nagy.

The game was overshadowed at the opening by the loud jeering of England’s players as they took the knee, and what followed was a weary, poor effort that had all the hallmarks of a long season’s finish.

Jarrod Bowen of West Ham put in a strong performance on his debut, but Leicester defender James Justin, who was also making his debut, suffered an injury and was replaced by Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, who provided a rare England threat with a fine run and shot that Hungary keeper Peter Gulacsi saved with his legs.

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England will now travel to Munich for their second Nations League A3 match against Germany on Tuesday.

England appeared to be unserious

England came into this game on the back of a strong and sustained run of form that saw them comfortably qualify for the World Cup, so manager Gareth Southgate will be disappointed with their performance.

They hadn’t lost since Belgium defeated them in November 2020, with the exception of a penalty shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

England, on the other hand, can’t complain about this result, except perhaps for the soft penalty conceded.

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England kicked off the Nations League campaign in a disappointing fashion after a 1-0 loss to Hungary in Budapest

There are, of course, mitigating circumstances, such as the fact that these competitive matchups – despite the fact that even seasoned internationals like Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne believe they are little more than glorified friendlies – come at the conclusion of a long season for so many England players.

The visitors were flat, and it’s maybe no wonder that Trent Alexander-Arnold looked fatigued after playing in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid only a week ago.

The sloppiness and lack of spark against a Hungary team that looked a lot fresher and more imaginative, particularly Nagy, who won Szoboszlai’s penalty, and Loic Nego, will worry Southgate.

Southgate’s team lacked the enthusiasm and zip of their opponents, while Harry Kane, seeking his 50th England goal, sparkled only briefly. Service was scant, and Southgate’s side lacked the energy and snap of their opponents.

In terms of Hungary and their fans, and how they celebrated at the end of the game, there was a competitive aspect to it.

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Southgate will have taken little from this, but he had hoped for more – and will need it in Munich if England is not to repeat their fate.

Budapest’s surreal scenes

Even though this game was supposed to be played behind closed doors to punish Hungary and their fans for their behavior at Euro 2020, their triumph was celebrated with enthusiasm and deafening roars at the final whistle.

Hungary used Uefa’s Article 73 to allow children under the age of 14 to attend the match, although they had to be accompanied by an adult.

It drew a large crowd, with England’s players being jeered when they took the knee before kick-off, and then a festival-like atmosphere as Hungary’s players completed a lap of honour.

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