England suffered a shock 1-0 loss to impressive Hungary in a Nations League opener that started with the depressing sound of boos from stands filled with children as Gareth Southgate’s side took the knee.
Nine months ago racism marred the Three Lions’ 4-0 World Cup qualification win at the Puskas Arena, which was half full on Saturday despite the hosts serving a UEFA punishment for discriminatory behaviour at Euro 2020.
There were around 35,000 in attendance for a match that was supposedly being played behind closed doors as Hungary made the most out of regulations that allowed children to attend in such circumstances.
The composition of the crowd made the pre-match jeering when England took the knee all the more jarring in Budapest, where the Magyars went on to secure a shock, albeit deserved, 1-0 win in the Group A3 opener.
Hungary last beat England in 1962 and it was Dominik Szoboszlai who wrote his name into the history books, firing a well-struck penalty beyond Jordan Pickford in the second half.
The decision to award the spot-kick for recently-introduced substitute Reece James’ challenge on Zsolt Nagy looked harsh, but England could hardly argue with the result given how they toiled throughout.
It was a demoralising start to a run of four Nations League games in 11 days for Southgate’s men, who have to pick themselves up for Tuesday’s tough trip to Germany.