Hungary’s national football team has reached the European Championship finals first time since 1972 after a fabulous second-leg performance in Budapest enabled Bernd Storck’s men to defeat Norway 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.
A superb strike from Tamás Priskin gave Hungary an early lead and they confidently held on to it for much of the match, doubling their advantage through a Markus Henriksen own goal before the same player grabbed one back for Norway, but to no avail for the away team.
Balázs Dzsudzsák seized on a loose ball to try his luck after just forty seconds, but Ørjan Nyland gathered easily, and Norway struggled to unsettle a Hungary side that defended deep and broke at pace. From one such attack, Hungary took a sensational lead through Priskin, as he chased down a long pass from Tamás Kádár, cut inside and curled a ferocious shot into the far right corner of the net from 18 metres.
That left Norway needing to score at least twice, and Per-Mathias Høgmo’s men nearly did get a goal back through Haitam Aleesami, but Gábor Király saved well with his legs. Still Hungary applied the pressure and Gergő Lovrencsics’s far-post header from László Kleinheisler’s whipped right-wing cross was only a metre wide.
After the interval, Hungary brought on Ádám Pintér for Ákos Elek in a bid to beef up the midfield, while Norway drafted in Pål André Helland and Marcus Pedersen for Mohamed Elyounoussi and 16-year-old Martin Ødegaard. The pattern of the game remained largely unaltered, though, with Hungary sitting deep, nullifying Norway’s attacks and countering. From one such break, Dzudzsák hit the crossbar just before the hour mark.
Nyland kept his team in the tie with a superb low save from Hungary’s captain before Norway finally created some chances, Marcus Pedersen having a close-range shot superbly blocked by Király and Markus Henriksen firing over from a narrow angle.
Hungary were thus relieved when Henriksen accidentally steered Dániel Böde’s flick-on towards his own goal, Nyland unable to keep it out. Henriksen made some amends with a low finish at the other end, but Norway could do nothing else to dampen Hungary’s full-time celebrations.
Hungary’s head coach Bernd Storck: “I’d like to congratulate my team. They played very well – not just tonight – but over the past few weeks, and the foundations for tonight were laid last Thursday [in the first leg]. I took some risks in Oslo; he [debutant László Kleinheisler] was new, but I was convinced that he can play at this level. We have many players who don’t play regularly with their clubs but I trust them – they play with confidence and without fear. The level and intensity of their players was amazing tonight – I think we deserve to go to France 100%. I think we employed the right tactics today and in Oslo – that was the key to our success.”
Norway coach Per-Mathias Høgmo: “First of all, congratulations to the Hungary team on their qualification for the finals in France next summer – they were better than us over the two legs. I have been pleased with our qualification campaign but disappointed that we didn’t come up to that level in the home game [on Thursday] and also tonight. Since we didn’t score from our chances at home we picked an offensive team today. It didn’t succeed in the first half so we changed things around for the second half [Pål André Helland and Marcus Pedersen coming on for Mohamed Elyounoussi and Martin Ødegaard]. Not scoring from the six or seven good chances we created at home was the problem.”