Serbia qualify for Euros after draw against Bulgaria as Hungary see off Montenegro


Serbia qualify for Euros after draw against Bulgaria as Hungary see off Montenegro

Szoboszlai celebrating his goal
Szoboszlai celebrating his goalAFP
Serbia qualified for their first Euro finals since independence in 2006, while Hungary got a comfortable three points with as many goals over Montenegro.

Hungary 3 Montenegro 1

Two minutes of magic from Dominik Szoboszlai turned the match around as already-qualified Hungary secured a 3-1 win over Montenegro in Budapest, guaranteeing top spot in UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Group G for the Hungarians and ending the visitors’ hopes of a first major tournament as an independent nation.

Montenegro needed to win and hope Serbia slipped up at home to Bulgaria, but their hearts were in mouths as early as the seventh minute when Hungary’s Daniel Gazdag went down inside the area under a challenge from Marko Vesovic, but Dutch referee Danny Makkelie waved away the penalty claims. The visitors comfortably dealt with Hungarian pressure throughout much of the first half before taking their chance in the 35th minute, when Andrija Vukcevic played a cross to the far post, which was headed back across goal by Stevan Jovetic and bundled home by Slobodan Rubezic, his first international goal.

In response, Szoboszlai’s corner was volleyed spectacularly from outside the area by Bendegúz Bolla, but the goal-bound effort was cleared by Igor Vujacic. After the break, Montenegro were again made to weather a Hungarian storm, and their task was made more difficult shortly before the hour mark when goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic injured himself taking a goal kick, and had to be replaced by Filip Dukic who was making his international debut.

Dukic was powerless to stop what came next though. In the 66th minute, the ball was played out to Szoboszlai on the right, and he cut infield, slaloming past three Montenegrin defenders before rifling a shot across Dukic into the bottom corner. With the wind in his sails, Szoboszlai had Hungary in front just over a minute later, this time receiving the ball wide on the left, playing an excellently-timed one-two to bisect the Montenegro back line and beat Dukić with power to put the Magyars ahead.

Hungarian goalkeeper Denes Dibusz was the hero late on for the hosts, as he first kept out a golden opportunity for Milutin Osmajić, before making a double save from first Jovetić and then Osmajic. He excelled himself inside the final five minutes, making four saves in a matter of seconds to keep his side ahead and seal a first win over the Brave Falcons, which was rounded off in injury time, when Szoboszlai’s free-kick was saved by Dukic, but knocked in on the rebound by Adam Nagy. Serbia’s 2-2 draw with Bulgaria meant that any Montenegro comeback would have been in vain, and their wait to take the spotlight as an independent nation continues.

Hungary - Montenegro player ratings
Hungary - Montenegro player ratingsFlashscore

Flashscore Man of the Match: Dominik Szoboszlai (Hungary)

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Serbia 2 Bulgaria 2

Serbia qualified for their first UEFA European Championship finals since independence in 2006 - despite a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria at the Gradski stadion Dubocica in a behind-closed-doors encounter - following Montenegro's defeat to Group G winners Hungary.

Knowing that avoiding a defeat would confirm their place in Germany next year, Serbia began on the front foot in Leskovac as Nemanja Gudelj forced a sublime save out of Daniel Naumov. However, there was nothing the visiting Bulgaria goalkeeper could do to prevent the hosts from breaking the deadlock shortly after as Eagles defender Milos Veljkovic headed home the rebound from close range after Gudelj’s initial effort had been brilliantly touched onto the crossbar.

At risk of becoming the first-ever Bulgarian side to remain winless in a single UEFA European Championship Qualification (ECQ) campaign since the tournament’s inception in 1960, the Lions were inches away from an equalising goal shortly before the half-hour mark as Kiril Despodov’s fearsome strike cannoned back off the crossbar. There was still time in the first half for Filip Kostic to test the reflexes of Naumov as Serbia returned to the home dressing room 45 minutes away from taking their place alongside 23 other nations at Euro 2024.

Without a victory against a nation inside the top 30 of FIFA World Rankings since August 2017, Bulgaria took one step closer to righting that wrong as half-time substitute Georgi Rusev equalised for the Lions on the stroke of the hour mark with an exquisite strike that flew into the far corner. Unbelievably, Bulgaria turned the match on its head 10 minutes later as the Lions’ current active all-time leading goalscorer Despodov (11 goals) capped off a menacing run with a delightful lofted finish over Vanja Milinkovic-Savic.

However, there was still time for Serbia to salvage a late point with eight minutes left in regulation time as Srđan Babić rose above the Bulgarian defence to flick home Dusan Tadic’s inswinging corner. A point apiece further extends Serbia’s all-time unbeaten head-to-head record over Bulgaria, as the Eagles’ celebrations will expectedly go on into the early hours of Monday morning after confirming their flight to Germany next year. Meanwhile, Bulgaria will surely not look back at their 2024 ECQ campaign with fond memories after finishing bottom of Group G with a modest six points from eight matches.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Kiril Despodov (Bulgaria)

Serbia - Bulgaria player ratings
Serbia - Bulgaria player ratingsFlashscore

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Group G standings
Group G standingsFlashscore


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