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Heroic Hungary reach first major tournament since 1986

Holly Thackeray | November 16, 2015

Hungary cement spot at Euro 2016 finals

Romania Hungary Euro Soccer
Dark horses Hungary continued a theme that has been ever present through Euro 2016 qualifying, by becoming the latest in a line of plucky underdogs to surprisingly seize a spot in the France finals this summer.

Granted, the Magical Magyars required the lottery of play-offs to reach this stage, but ultimately theirs was the winning ticket, meaning Hungary will send a team to a major tournament for the first time since 1986.

Of course few expect the Central Europeans to be contenders for the trophy, with Coral’s price of 250/1 for victory in France a fair reflection of Hungary’s minnow status in this sport. Yet, this achievement is a huge step for Hungarian football, as Coral experts previously contemplated before the second-leg.

Once a European giant of the game, the Magical Magyar men are on a journey to restore footballing pride to a nation that has been starved of the big stages for around three decades.

Considered outsiders before a surprise scalping of opponents Norway in Oslo, Hungary were only still slight favourites to take the spoils from their scuffle with the Scandinavians on home soil.

First leg no fluke

Greece Hungary Euro Soccer
As Coral writers predicted, German coach Bernd Storck’s side proved their pedigree and credentials in front of thrilled fans in Budapest. While a narrow 1-0 win away may have left doubts as to whether Hungary deserved to run out as winners, the return should have silenced critics.

Once again, Norway had the lion’s share of chances but came up empty, though this time they were punished more emphatically, as the hosting Hungarians were clinical.

Former Watford forward Tamas Priskin’s swerving strike will compete with compatriot Laszlo Kleinheisler’s cracking winner in the first leg to be best goal of this particular play-off, while late pressure led to Norway’s Markus Henriksen turning the ball into his own net. The young midfielder then made amends at the other end, but the Nordic nation’s consolation came too little too late.

This means Norway miss out on another major finals, with their last outing at Euro 2000, while Hungary await the chance to feature at their first European Championship since 1972, with the group draw set for December 12th.

Speaking after victory, boss Storck underlined the importance of their feat, stating: “Congratulations to the team for a huge performance throughout the qualifying series. This is huge success for the football team and the country. Now I’m Hungarian.

“Having come back down to earth we are now celebrating. We’ll see how to proceed but we are well prepared for the tournament.”

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Further Euro 2016 content, previews and features are available in our archive