The Puskás Aréna in Budapest – Photo: wikipedia

Hungary on brink of qualifying, four games for Puskás Aréna

Iceland last obstacle to reach EURO 2020 finals

The Hungarian national football team must defeat Iceland at home in Budapest’s Puskás Aréna this Thursday November 12 to reach the finals of the four-yearly UEFA EURO competition.
11. November 2020 13:33

The coronavirus pandemic has caused EURO 2020 to be put back to 11 June to 11 July 2021. The competition is being held across the continent for the first time in its 60-year history, with 24 finalists to battle it out in 12 host cities in all. Three group games and one round-of-16 game will be played at the Puskás Aréna.

The winner of the Hungary-Iceland game will go into Group F with Portugal, France and Germany. The other groups are:

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland
Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia
Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, Play-off winner D*
Group D: England, Croatia, Play-off winner C, Czech Republic
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Play-off winner B
The other three play-off finals on November 12 are B: Northern Ireland versus Slovakia, C: Serbia versus Scotland and D: Georgia versus North Macedonia.

Hungary and Iceland have played each other 11 times in total, Hungary winning seven, Iceland three and one draw. Hungary has scored 22 goals and Iceland 11 in the encounters.

In the semi-final play-offs on October 8, Hungary defeated Bulgaria 3-1 in Sofia. Willi Orbán’s chested 17th-minute opener, Zsolt Kalmár’s long-range free-kick just after half-time and Nemanja Nikolić’s header from a superb Szilveszter Hangya cross after 75 minutes took Hungary through. Georgi Yomov completed a fine team move for Bulgaria’s late consolation on his senior international debut.

Iceland beat Romania 2-1 in their semi-final play-off, with the UEFA EURO 2016 surprise package moving a step closer to a finals return thanks to two expertly taken first-half goals from the irrepressible Gylfi Sigurdsson. Alexandru Maxim pulled one back from the spot against the run of play on the hour but Erik Hamrén’s side comfortably held on for victory.

Despite Hungary’s victory over Bulgaria, Marco Rossi, the Italian manager of the Hungarian national team, was disappointed with his side’s performance.

“I did not feel too well during the 90 minutes of the match. The team didn’t quite play at the level of the past few matches,” Rossi said at a press conference following the victory. “There was more pressure, which lead to small technical and personal mistakes. We could not display the true quality of the team.”

Iceland, after reaching their first major tournament at EURO 2016, scored a historic 2-1 win against England in the last 16. They then qualified for their first World Cup in Russia in 2018 although they exited at the group stage.

They had a tough draw in the current UEFA Nations League and were beaten 1-0 at home by England before a 5-1 thrashing in Belgium.

Hungary also reached the EURO 2016 finals, which had been expanded to 24 teams from the 16-team format used since 1996. Hungary beat Austria 2-0, drew 1-1 with Iceland and drew 3-3 with eventual competition winner Portugal in the group games. They advanced to the knock-out stage but were beaten 4-0 by Belgium.

Sixteen teams have been battling it out for the four remaining UEFA EURO 2020 places in the competition’s new-look play-offs. The other hosts will be London, Munich, Saint Petersburg, Bucharest, Bilbao, Rome, Baku, Amsterdam, Dublin, Glasgow and Copenhagen.

Puskás Aréna has a capacity of 67,215.

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