BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary qualified for the Euro 2020 finals with a thrilling 2-1 comeback win over Iceland in their playoff game thanks to a late equaliser from Loic Nego and a stoppage-time winner by Dominik Szoboszlai on Thursday.
Hungary will join Portugal, France and Germany in Group F at next year’s tournament, with the first and third of those games to be played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.
Iceland had gone ahead when goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi fumbled a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick into his own net in the 11th minute, prompting a match-long onslaught form the home side.
Playmaker Szoboszlai was key to Hungary’s effort, whipping crosses and set-pieces into the box, and he almost put his side level just before the break with a long-distance free kick that required a full-stretch dive from Hannes Haldorsson to save.
The Hungarian siege on Iceland’s goal continued in the second half, but they struggled to create many decent chances and looked vulnerable on the break as the visitors sought to exploit the space behind the home defence on the counter.
Iceland substitute Albert Gudmundsson almost killed the game off with a late sliding effort but just failed to connect with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s cross and it was the costliest of misses.
French-born Hungary substitute Nego joined the fray in the 84th minute and he was quickest to a ball that pinged between defenders in the area, slotting home to equalise two minutes from the end of normal time.
Extra time loomed but Szoboszlai had other ideas and capped a superb performance by firing home in the second minute of added time to seal a stunning win and send his side through to the finals, prompting wild celebrations by his team.
Both sides took part in Euro 2016 and though Iceland’s dream of qualifying for the finals of a third major tournament was dashed in the cruellest fashion, there was a note of defiance in their disappointment.
“When you have worked this hard to reach some goal, and come his close, it is really frustrating. But this is not the end for us and the next qualification tournament is close,” captain Aron Gunnarsson said.
Euro 2020, which is being staged across the continent, has been postponed until June-July next year due to COVID-19.
Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond
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