Prague, Czech Republic – Central European countries kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying to a promising start despite mixed results which include a stunning victory of Hungary against World Cup finalists Croatia last night, and the Czech Republic’s embarrassing display against England on Friday.
Ranked 52nd in the world, Hungary came from behind to defeat World Cup runners-up Croatia 2-1 in their Euro 2020 Group E qualifier last night. Roared on by a packed Groupama Arena, Hungary valiantly fought back in a pulsating match which threw the group wide open after Wales beat Slovakia 1-0 in Cardiff earlier in the day.
Slovakia had indeed beaten Hungary 2-0 on Thursday in a 100% Central European contest, which now means that Slovakia, Wales, Hungary and Croatia each have three points, while Azerbaijan have none.
In the meantime, Poland, who had already won 1-0 in Austria on Thursday, overcame a resilient Latvian defence through late goals by captain Robert Lewandowski and Kamil Glik. The Biało-czerwoni, who arguably carry the highest chances of qualifying among the four Central European nations, now top Group G with six points.
On a less positive note, the Czech Republic, who will play Brazil in a friendly in Prague tomorrow, were comprehensively outclassed by England at Wembley on Friday, and lost 5-0 as Raheem Sterling scored his first hat-trick for England.
The next rounds of qualifying will take place in June, with Czech Republic hosting Bulgaria and Montenegro, Poland playing Macedonia and Israel, and Hungary and Slovakia taking on Azerbaijan. Hungary will also host Wales.
The Euro 2020 is scheduled to be held in 12 cities in 12 European countries from 12 June to 12 July 2020; namely London, Rome, Munich, Baku, Dublin, Saint Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Bilbao… and Budapest! The Hungarian capital’s 68,000-seat Puskás Aréna will host three group games and one round of 16 game.
For the first time ever, all four Central European teams had qualified for the 2016 edition in France with Poland going the furthest in the competition and losing on penalties in the quarter-finals to future winners Portugal.