image source: Reuters
The image says it all. Hungary was on the brink of qualifying for EURO 2016. Throughout a majority of the qualifying process, they were our favorite to advance as the best 3rd place team. As qualifying progressed, their odds continued to climb. Heading into the final match day, it was between Hungary and Turkey for that direct qualifying spot. Turkey needed to defeat Iceland at home and Kazakhstan also had to win at Latvia. Anything other than both of those results would see Hungary move on directly.
Both matches entered the second half goalless. In the 65th, Kazakhstan struck at Latvia. Turkey had the help they needed and just needed a goal to get through. But in the 78th back in Turkey, the hosts were reduced to 10 men. A free kick in the 89th provided the opportunity:
And just like that Turkey was through. Hungary was on their way to the playoffs.
Norway took a slightly different path. They always appeared headed to the playoffs should they fail to finish top 2 in their group. For a brief point in October, it looked as if they may give Croatia a scare after they had been docked a point. Norway was at Italy, while Croatia finished at Malta. Norway was 2 points ahead of Croatia but did not hold the tiebreaker. That meant if Croatia took care of business, Norway would have to win at Italy. Croatia did in fact take care of business and Norway was unable to deliver the goods at Italy. They, too, were headed to the playoffs.
We’ll go ahead and spoil a bit of the surprise. We have Hungary ranked #42 and Norway ranked #57. Both teams should feel pretty happy with the draw. We had each ranked #3 of 4 in their respective pots. It certainly could have been worse for both teams.
The last time these teams met was in 2012. The first time they met was in 1912. They’ve met 17 times historically, with Hungary winning 7, Norway winning 5, and 5 draws. Pretty even.
But things haven’t always been even. All 7 of Hungary’s wins in this tilt were in their first 8 meetings. Hungary has not won in their last 9 meetings dating back to 1981. In these 9 meetings, Hungary has just 2 goals, versus 14 for Norway. In the first 8 meetings, it was 30 goals for Hungary and 5 for Norway.
Clearly these two teams fortunes have been going in opposite directions. Hungary was up and Norway was down. Those roles then reversed, but now they seem fairly even in the middle.
Odds to Advance
As we indicated, our rankings give the slight edge to Hungary. Both teams exceeded our expectations in qualifying, and although Hungary could easily be through at this point, we think they finish the job and reach the finals.
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