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EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

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Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia

Saturday int’l friendly previews: Denmark vs. Mexico, Hungary vs. Australia

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World Cup squads continue to warm up with just a week to go before the big dance, and there is another full slate of games on Saturday.

France hosts the United States as Didier Deschamps’ squad faces its final test before departing to Russia, while the USMNT has its last of a three-game international break that’s seen a number of young faces get invaluable playing time. Check out the full preview of France vs. United States here.

Elsewhere in the world…

Denmark vs. Mexico

Both these teams have aspirations of reaching the knockout stage, so this should be quite a good test for both teams as to where they stand heading into the tournament. Denmark will need to beat Peru in group stage play, a team that plays a relatively similar style to Mexico. El Tri, meanwhile, has two European sides in its group in the form of Germany and Sweden.

More is riding on this match for Denmark, as they have truly struggled to score of late. In their last five matches, they’ve scored three goals, including a pair of 0-0 draws their last two times out. With nobody else to support Christian Eriksen, it’s been relatively simple for opposing teams to lock down the creative force. Can Age Haride figure out how to give his talisman some help?

Mexico, meanwhile, is incredible defensive form. El Tri has conceded just a single goal over five matches in the 2018 calendar year. It hasn’t been terribly pretty up front, but it’s not exactly cause for alarm just yet.

Hungary vs. Australia

Australia downed a struggling Czech Republic 4-0 last time out, and the Socceroos would head into the World Cup with a serious barrel of confidence if they can achieve a similar result against Hungary. 27-year-old Matthew Leckie scored a pair in that win, and the Hertha winger will prove an important piece to any potential Australia success.

It’s the opposite across the field, where Hungary comes into their final tuneup with just three wins to eight losses in 12 matches since the start of the 2017 calendar year. They’ve dropped game to Kazakhstan and Scotland so far in 2018, most recently playing to a 1-1 draw against lowly Belarus. Manager Georges Leekens has yet to pick up a win since taking over in November, and things aren’t looking up for the National Eleven.

Sweden vs. Peru

Peru is one of the more intriguing sides in the entire 2018 World Cup, and a win over fellow participant Sweden would be a stellar sendoff to the big dance. With captain Paolo Guerrera back in action and needing minutes, look for him to at least make an appearance for the South American side.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup dark horses ]

Sweden, however, has won just once since topping Italy in their UEFA qualification playoff match. A drab scroeless draw with Denmark did little to quiet the doubters heading into the World Cup, and staring down a tough group with Mexico, Germany, and South Korea, a win over Peru would go a long way towards renewing confidence in the side.

Serbia vs. Bolivia

The Serbian squad desperately needs playing time together, and these 90 minutes will be as important as any. Manager Mladen Krstajic has brought in a number of talented players who haven’t spent much time on the pitch together, and while there’s plenty of excitement surrounding striker Aleksandr Mitrovic, midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and winger Adem Ljajic, the trio have very little game time together in the past few years due to the banishment of the latter pair under previous management.

[ MORE: Serbia World Cup preview ]

SMS in particular has just three caps to his name despite a heaping of potential, and has played just 45 minutes of national team time in 2018. Look for him to see his first full 90 minutes since his international debut in early November.

Tunisia vs. Spain

With Germany sputtering to a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia today, Spain will want to bounce back from a shaky 90 minutes of their own as they visit Tunisia. A first-choice Spain squad drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their last match on Sunday, where they held 65% and popped off 18 shots but managed just a single goal. The top teams aren’t exactly convincing in the last few weeks, but that could be down to experimentation more than anything else.

Israel vs. Argentina

Argentina’s last two years have been a roller coaster ride, there’s no debating. In their last four matches alone, they’ve demolished Haiti 4-0 and passed Italy 2-0, but also lost to Nigeria 4-2 and were stomped by Spain 6-1. A comprehensive and convincing win over Israel would be a good way to enter World Cup play, but there’s no skirting around the fact that Argentina is more of a wild card in the 2018 tournament than they have been in quite some time. Will manager Jorge Sampaoli haul out a strong starting eleven against Israel, or will he rest the starters and put health above all else? He has a lot to sort out, that’s for sure.

VIDEO: Hilarious entrance, stunning goal from Hungary

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“Hey guys, hey guys… lemme go first!”

Whatever led Barna Busai through his 33 years to our eyes, we’re grateful for it.

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Leading into this week’s international break, Halloween footage from Hungary’s fourth tier has provided a hilarious moment (and, later, a pretty stunning goal) via Who Ate All The Pies.

Eger drew Felsotarkany 2-2 on Oct. 31, but the co-star of the show was midfielder Busai.

The well-traveled 33-year-old made an entrance as good as it gets, sliding down a pair of long railings in a manner difficult to describe aside from saying he got horizontal.

We say co-star because of the second goal, coming from outside the arc and curling into the goal. Well done by 21-year-old Matyas Greso.

Chicago Fire add Designated Player striker from Legia Warsaw

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If the Polish Ekstraklasa is anywhere near or better the standard of Major League Soccer, the Chicago Fire have landed a good one.

The Fire’s latest Designated Player is Legia Warsaw striker Nemanja Nikolic, whose 23 times capped as a Hungarian national teamer.

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Chicago finished last in the Eastern Conference during its first year under coach Veljko Paunovic.

“I am very happy to be joining Chicago Fire. From the moment the club expressed interest and especially after speaking with manager Veljko Paunovic, and although I had other offers, this is where I wanted to be,” Nikolic said in a Fire press release.

“Through this transfer, we have secured a champion in his prime, and one of the most prolific goal scorers in Europe over the last few years,” said Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez. “In addition to his on-field talents, Nemanja is a fantastic person. His relentless pursuit of victory and goals is certain to make him a fan favorite.”

A 28-year-old center forward, Nikolic has 19 goals in 31 matches this year including a tally against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League.

He has 194 total goals in 326 club appearances, also playing for Videoton, Kaposvar, Kaposvolgye, and Barcs.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly retiring from national team

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly says he is retiring from the national team after 18 years and a record 107 matches.

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Kiraly, known for playing in gray sweatpants in all weather conditions, led Hungary to the round of 16 at the Euro 2016 championships in June.

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The 40-year-old Kiraly said on his website that he will continue playing with hometown team Szombathelyi Haladas, but that playing on the national squad was now beyond him physically.

Kiraly said that the lack of rest between the Hungarian championship and the month-long preparations for Euro 2016 and then the tournament tired him.

Kiraly said that “I gave it my all but, in the meantime, my body signaled that this is the limit.”

Kiraly broke Jozsef Boszik’s record of 101 matches for Hungary in May.