Euro 2020 play-offs: Hungary fightback stuns Iceland, North Macedonia qualify


Hungary produced a dramatic late comeback in Budapest to qualify for the Euro 2020 finals and deny Iceland, who had been two minutes away from sealing their place.

Iceland went ahead in the 11th minute when the goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi fumbled a Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick into his own net, and held on to their lead until the 88th minute, when the substitute Loic Nego slotted home a loose ball to equalise.

Extra time was on the horizon at the Puskas Arena but Dominik Szoboszlai had other ideas. The Salzburg forward capped a superb performance by firing home in the second minute of added time, prompting wild celebrations from his teammates.

Hungary knew they would face a tough draw if they progressed; they will be in Group F alongside France, Portugal and Germany, but are scheduled to host two games in Budapest.

Earlier, North Macedonia qualified for their first-ever major tournament appearance, after a 1-0 away win over Georgia in Tbilisi. Goran Pandev, his nation’s most capped player and all-time leading scorer, flicked the ball home in the 56th minute of a tense, scrappy match played on a slippery pitch. The 37-year-old was in tears at the final whistle as his team celebrated a dream qualification.

“I am so happy. I’ve have played in a lot of games like this before and I think my experience helped the team to achieve this success,” said Pandev.

The team’s coach, Igor Angelovski, said: “We will play for our nation’s pride in the finals. Pandev scored a beautiful goal to take us through.”

North Macedonia will face Austria, the Netherlands and Ukraine in Group C at Euro 2020, which has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Balkan side have emerged victorious from the play-off path reserved for teams from the fourth tier of the inaugural Nations League.

With so much at stake, the match was predictably cagey and it took 28 minutes before either goalkeeper had to make a save when the Georgia playmaker Tornike Okriashvili tested Stole Dimitrievski with a long-range shot. Okriashvili also sent a shot swerving narrowly wide of the post as Georgia threatened to take control.

There were 29 fouls in a stop-start match and only four shots on target but the neatly worked winning goal was in contrast to the rest of the game. Eljif Elmas broke down the left and slipped the ball to Ilija Nestorovski. His pass found Pandev who flicked the ball past Giorgi Loria for his 36th international goal.

Georgia could not recover from that setback, and the visitors had only one real scare when an intended cross by Okriashvili nearly flew into the top corner. Dimitrievski caught it under the bar and just managed to cling on.