United midfielder Zoltán Stieber returns to the Hungarian national team for a pair of World Cup Qualifying matches, beginning Oct. 7 in Basel against Switzerland. With an overall group victory out of reach, Hungary are looking for one of the final four runner-up spots that guarantee a 2018 World Cup bid in Russia.
Hungary trail Switzerland and Portugal in Group B of UEFA qualifying by double digit points, but could still qualify for their 10th World Cup by finishing as a top-eight runner up and then finishing in the top-four among those eight in a play-off.
The two national teams will play exactly one year removed from their last match, when Swiss midfielder Valentin Stocker netted the game-winning goal in the 89th minute to defeat the Hungarians. Stieber started for the Hungarians that game, and could draw back into the starting IX with vital points on the line.
The 28-year-old has 22 caps with Hungary, including a start Aug. 31 against Latvia, a 3-1 win. All-time, Stieber has three international goals, last scoring June 2016 against Austria in UEFA Euro 2016.
Nemzeti Tizenegy are 3-1-4 in World Cup Qualifying for 2018, earning two wins against Latvia and one versus Andorra. The Hungarians are 30-5-10 versus the Swiss all-time, but have struggled mightily since the end of the 1980s, winning only once in the last eight matches, dating back to 1994.
The Swiss, ranked seventh in the FIFA World Rankings, will aim to lock-up Group B with a win Saturday, but will also need to defeat Portugal in their following match, as well as receive outside help, to be in consideration for seeding in the World Cup draw.
With both teams needing wins for different reasons, expect a tightly-contested match between squads boasting immense offensive talent. MLS leading goal-scorer Nemanja Nikolic (Chicago) will help direct the attack for Hungary, while Arsenal member and Swiss national Granit Xhaka will battle Stieber in the midfield.
Goalkeeper Yann Sommer has started all but one of Switzerland’s qualifying matches, allowing two goals in seven matches and posting six clean sheets. The Hungarians are the only nation in Group B to solve Sommer thus far, and will look to execute once again Saturday.