Hungary clinch final remaining spot at 2019 U-17 World Cup
Will be joined at global finals by fellow Europeans France, Netherlands, Italy and Spain
U-17 World Cup to be held in Brazil later this year
Hungary became the fifth and final team from Europe to book their place at Brazil 2019 after a penalty shoot-out victory against Belgium in the FIFA World Cup play-off match at the UEFA U-17 European Championship in Republic of Ireland on Thursday.
Chris Kalulika put Belgium ahead at Dublin’s Tolka Park before Hungary’s Gyorgy Komaromi headed the equaliser to see the game finish 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The game was decided in a shoot-out, with Hungary prevailing 5-4 after successfully netting all their spot-kicks. Brazil 2019 will be Hungary’s second U-17 World Cup. They reached the quarter-finals of the tournament in their only other appearance in 1985.
Hungary will join France, Netherlands, Italy and Spain at the global finals in South America later this year. The Hungarians' quartet of fellow qualifiers previously booked their Brazil berths by advancing to the U-17 EURO semi-finals.
France secured their ticket in the most emphatic of fashions, earning a 6-1 win over Czech Republic to become the first team from Europe into the global finals. Having helped ensure reigning champions England would not defend the title they won at India 2017, they clocked up their 13th goal in just four games.
Central to that has been Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adil Aouchiche, who notched four against the Czechs, seeing him stretch his tournament tally to a record-breaking nine.
The scoring had been opened by Enzo Millot in spectacular fashion, through an expertly executed 30-yard lob, before the fleet-footed Aouchiche struck three to put things beyond doubt. Kelian Nsona Wa Saka thumped home from the edge of the box before captain Aouchiche slotted home from the penalty spot. The only blot on the rampant French's copybook came when Adam Ritter hit a consolation with the final kick of the game.
Having finished behind France in Group B, Netherlands made similarly short work of neighbours Belgium, earning a convincing and comfortable 3-0 win.
Their first was down to some sharp awareness in the area, with Sontje Hansen capitalising after an effort cannoned off the post. The next two, though were pure class.
Five minutes before the break Anass Salah-Eddine fired a wonder volley to double the Dutch's lead, catching it superbly after it dropped out of the air. The third came from a fabulous bit of skill courtesy of Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever. Bursting into the penalty area, he had the presence of mind to roll the ball past the defender with the sole of his boot, skip round the other side, then thump home the strike that put the game beyond doubt.
It's been eight years since the Netherlands last featured at a U-17 World Cup, with a side featuring the likes of Memphis Depay in Mexico, and will be just their fourth appearance, having picked up a bronze on their debut in 2005.
Italy snapped their own drought of appearances at the U-17 World Cup, marking their place in the competition for the first time since 2013 with a tense 1-0 triumph over Portugal in another U-17 European Championship quarter-final.
Juventus midfielder Franco Tongya's 26th-minute goal proved the decider, after Italy No10 Sebastiano Esposito pulled the strings to find Tongya for a low shot inside the box.
Portugal were feisty in their search for an equaliser, and Italy had plenty of frenetic second-half defending to do in order to secure all three points. But the Azzurrini held on for their fourth win in four tournament games, and will now ready themselves for a semi-final contest against France.
They were given all they could handle, but Spain were able to eke past a tireless Hungary team on penalties 1-1 (5-4) to clinch the last semi-final position at the U-17 European Championship.
Four-time runners-up at the U-17 World Cup – most recently at India 2017 – La Rojita will return to the tournament in Brazil to contend for their first title.
Valencia's Jordi Escobar put Spain on the board in the 11th minute, and his early tally could have paved the way for a breezy victory. But Hungary would have none of it; particularly midfielder Gergo Omingen, whose looping shot from distance in the 50th minute tied the match at one goal apiece.
Outshot 15-3 overall, Hungary still managed to grind out the remainder of the second half, forcing a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner. However, Spain would prevail as Andras Nemeth failed to convert his attempt while every Spanish player scored. They advance to face the Netherlands in the semi-final.