Fantastic comeback seals Paris 2024 ticket for Hungary

17 Mar. 2024

Fantastic comeback seals Paris 2024 ticket for Hungary

In front of over 6,000 fans in Tatabanya, Hungary delivered a pitch perfect finish in their do-or-die match against Portugal, to clinch the last ticket for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, with a dramatic 30:27 win.

21-year old right wing Bence Imre was the hummel Player of the Match, scoring nine goals and led a fantastic comeback for Hungary, which were down three goals after 42 minutes.

Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #3
Hungary vs Portugal 30:27 (16:16)

60 minutes for an Olympic dream. A three-year cycle was summed up to this for Hungary and Portugal, as the two teams had everything on the line in a single match, a do-or-die one for both, with the second ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #3 in Tatabanya to be awarded.

Both teams had won one match and lost the other one and had the same goal difference, +5, after the first two rounds, but Portugal had the upper hand by the virtue of scoring more goals (66) than Hungary (58), therefore Paulo Pereira’s side could afford a draw and still progress.

Yet with such a high-pressure scenario, everything was possible, in spite of Hungary playing at home. Three years ago, in Montpellier, Portugal shocked everybody and took a 29:28 win against hosts France to seal a ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And now, history could be repeated.

Nevertheless, it was Hungary which started the match better, running at 100% shooting efficiency after 10 minutes, with every attack converted into a goal, as Portugal failed to make any stop in defence. Left back Zoltán Szita, who scored four goals in the first half, was one of the chief responsibles for that run, as Hungary looked to play the part of favourites and secured a 7:4 lead.

Immediately, Portugal’s coach Paulo Pereira called a team time-out and urged his team to play with more pace, devising a cunning plan, with usual top scorers, Francisco and Martim Costa playing the role of enablers, as line player Luis Frade and left wing Leonel Fernandes each scored three goals.

The Costa brothers had six assists in the first half, but Hungary were still leading comfortably, 13:9, after 18 minutes. And until Portugal’s defence did not rise to the occasion, it was looking grim for Portugal. However, a 4:0 run for Pereira’s side, which prevented Hungary to score for exactly six minutes, turned the game on its head, with Portugal taking their first lead, 16:15, in the 29th minute.

It looked like Portugal had the upper hand with a stronger start in the second half, keeping their momentum up, with a three-goal lead, 22:19, after 41 minutes, as Hungary constantly failed in their defence.

Albeit for a swift comeback, which saw the difference erased and Portugal prevented to score for six minutes and 49 seconds, Hungary were hit with a huge red card for their main defender, Adrian Sipos, who hit Miguel Martins in the face and immediately Portugal took advantage, taking a two-goal lead, 24:22, with 10 minutes to go.

Yet this was the moment when stars are born and this is what 21-year-old right wing Bence Imre did. The player who only broke through in Hungary’s team, took control of the game and finished it with nine goals, including five in the last 10 minutes, to wrestle back the control and put Hungary ahead, 27:25, with four minutes left.

With their 30:27 win, Hungary celebrated the second win in the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #3 and progressed to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, completing the final line-up of the competition, as Portugal missed their chance to secure back-to-back appearances at the Olympics.

hummel Player of the Match: Bence Imre (Hungary)