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Battle Of Belfast: Hungary Coach Eyes Three Points Against High-Flying Northern Ireland – Match Preview!

By Tamás Székely // 2015.09.07.

Hungary head coach Bernd Storck was bullish in his assessment of the task facing his team in tonight’s UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier with Northern Ireland, insisting that Hungary were now in a good situation after Friday’s goalless home draw with Romania and that his team would be going for victory. The Hungary squad has benefited from Gera’s return but has also suffered the loss of Roland Juhász due to injury and Dániel Tőzsér through suspension, so youngster Dávid Márkvárt, the midfielder from Puskás Akadémia, has been drafted in as cover.

A win could put Hungary back in contention for an automatic qualification place and that was firmly on Bernd Storck’s agenda at the pre-match press conference at Windsor Park. “We had a good flight here and we are happy – we’re in a good position. It will be a difficult match because Northern Ireland are playing well. We didn’t play well in attack on Friday against Romania but we were good at the back against a very good team ranked 7th in the world, so we hope we will have more space and more opportunities tomorrow”, Storck said.

Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Zoltán Gera, returning in Belfast after serving a one-match suspension, was clear on where he thought the opponent’s strengths lie. “Northern Ireland are doing very well and are winning games. They are very strong at set-pieces so we know we need to stop them there, but we also want to win. At my age it’s always good to have a 1-2 week rest so I can say I’m fresh without any problems at all and I’m looking forward to the match”, he said.

Northern Ireland will host Hungary tonight at 20.45CET, knowing a win would earn them a first ever UEFA European Championship berth and their first major finals appearance since the 1986 World Cup, UEFA’s official website highlighted. Given the stakes, a dose of nerves would be understandable, but manager Michael O’Neill is confident his troops will rise to the occasion. “We’ve got all the characteristics to see this game through and see this campaign through,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a nervousness in the players; there’s an excitement, a really strong belief”, O’Neill said.

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty told BBC that he never imagined that they would be in this position. “This could be the first time Northern Ireland have ever qualified for a Euro finals. It really is some achievement and we can’t wait to make sure we get across the finish line”, he said. Northern Ireland started the qualifying series with a 2-1 victory away to Hungary, with Niall McGinn and Kyle Lafferty scoring late goals. That was followed by victories over the Faroes (twice), Greece and Finland. Their only defeat was away to Romania.

via mlsz.hu, uefa.com and bbc.co.uk photo: Tibor Illyés – MTI