BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – Hungary and the Czech Republic both won their Nations League group and clinched promotion to the competition’s top flight after respectively overcoming Turkey and Slovakia in their final group games last night.
Hungary and the Czech Republic join Poland in Nations League A after the Poles finished 3rd of their group and secured their spot, despite losing to the Netherlands.
But the Czech victory spelled bad news for Slovakia who failed to add to their momentous Euro 2020 qualification and have therefore been relegated to Nations League C.
Winning their group also enhances Hungary and the Czech Republic’s chances of securing a place in the 2022 World Cup qualifying play-offs. Should they miss out on automatic qualification or a play-off place for the tournament in Qatar, their status as Nations League group winners means they are virtually guaranteed a play-off spot via an alternative route.
“A real carnival awaits Hungarian football, with Euro 2020, the European Under 21 Championship, and now Nations League League A coming up. I’m immensely proud to be part of this success. It’s an honour to play any part,” said Hungary forward Kevin Varga after the game against Turkey, they won 2-0.
Promising Nations League ahead of Euro 2020
Despite Slovakia’s relegation, the international break has produced extremely promising results for Central European football, and particularly for Hungary. In addition to clinching Nations League promotion, the Magyarok also qualified for the Euro finals next summer, after impressively fighting back to beat Iceland in their qualifying play-offs last week.
Now facing the dreaded Group F composed of European champions Portugal, World champions France, and 2014 World champions Germany, Hungary will however have the (slight) advantage of playing two games at home in Budapest, one of the twelve host cities of the tournament, scheduled to be held from June 11 to July 11, 2021.
With Budapest’s 68,000-seat Puskás Aréna hosting three group games and one round of 16 game, Hungarian football fans have a lot to look forward to. Now let’s hope that by next summer, they will be allowed back into the stadiums…
With Slovakia also securing its spot for next summer’s tournament, it will be only the second time in history that all four Visegrad nations will compete at the European Championship together. Slovakia joins Poland against Sweden and Spain in Group E while the Czechs will face England, Croatia and Scotland in Group D.
Better than in 2016?
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.
Despite surprisingly finishing top of their group above Iceland, Portugal and Austria, underdog Hungary, whose tracksuit-wearing 40-year-old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly was the oldest player ever to appear in a European Championship, lost 4-0 to Belgium in the round of 16. Slovakia lost to 3-0 to Germany while the Czech Republic didn’t even make it out of the group stage.
Next summer, France, Belgium and England are heavy favourites, according to these Euro 2021 odds, with Poland the highest ranked team among Central European nations. But can Jerzy Brzeczek’s side make it through to the final four for the first time in history?