Hungarian football fans — while they could only watch the closed-door match on their screens — can now rejoice: After an auspicious beginning and an early first goal by Iceland, the home team’s efforts throughout the match eventually paid off with two goals in the last three minutes, qualifying them for the Euro 2020 finals, Nemzeti Sport writes.
The match began very poorly for the home team, after goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi slipped Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free kick into his own net in the 11th minute, giving a much needed early lead to the guests in an entirely empty Puskás Ferenc Arena. Hungary has strict coronavirus measures in place, which include a ban on all public gatherings, including sports events.
Although the Hungarian side had possession of the ball for 71% of the first half, they struggled to create any worthwhile opportunities to score until an inspired substitution (Loic Nego, 84th minute) paid off. The French-born defender scored the home side’s equalizing goal in the 88th minute, and two minutes later, just 59 seconds from the final whistle, playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai let loose a shot from the middle of the Icelandic side of the field and scored the decisive goal.
“I don’t think anyone expected me to be a hero but to just help the team. I am proud of us, we fought with all we had. My goal? I saw that the others weren’t in very good positions, so I ran towards the goal, and when I began to get tired, I launched the shot from 20 meters,” Szoboszlai said after the match.
“I am very sad. One match decided the qualification. Such matches are heaven and hell. This time it was hell for us,” Iceland manager Erik Hamrén said.
Euro 2020, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held in June-July 2021. Hungary, in its F group, will meet Portugal and France at home in Puskás Arena and in Munich, Germany. This is the fourth time the Hungarian national team has made it to the Euro finals.
Title image: Hungarian national team celebrates its 2:1 victory over Iceland in Budapest’s Puskás Ferenc Arena on November 12. (MTI/Tibor Illyés)