Football

Unfancied Hungary close to Round-of-16 berth

Late sweeping move by Hungary earns them a crucial point and keeps them in contention

Having been in the doldrums for nearly half a century, Hungary are a whisker away from reaching the Euro 2016 knockout stages after a patient and almost forgotten approach bore fruit in a 1-1 draw against Iceland yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Hungarians, who finished fourth at the 1972 European Championship after reaching the last eight of the 1966 World Cup, at times rekindled memories of the famous generation of players who reached the 1954 World Cup final.

Captain Balazs Dzsudzsak, the team's most talented player, would not have looked out of place in the teams of the legendary Ferenc Puskas, whose "light cavalry" instilled primal fear in the hearts of football's traditional heavyweights in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Dzsudzsak pulled the strings as Hungary, seemingly fated to end up as another victim of Iceland's simple but effective long-ball strategy, reaped the rewards for their crisp passing against a rugged and resolute defence.

The Hungarians enjoyed the lion's share of possession throughout, but Iceland, the tournament's upstarts playing on the big stage for the first time, used route one to devastating effect in the first half.

Every long ball and cross driven into the penalty area rocked the Hungarians, and it was hardly surprising that it produced the penalty which Gylfi Sigurdsson converted after a glaring error by goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly.

FLAWLESS DEFENCE

For much of the second half, it looked like Iceland would again triumph on the back of a packed midfield and a flawless defence.

But just as Iceland were ready to celebrate what would have been their first win at a major tournament, their resistance finally cracked.

It took a crafty sweeping move down the right flank, so reminiscent of the Hungary of old, to snatch a vital point, although it was unspectacularly secured by a Birkir Saevarsson own goal.

- Reuters.

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