LIMASSOL/ SOFIA — Hungary qualified for the Euro 2024 finals with a game to spare after a last-gasp own goal from Alex Petkov earned them a 2-2 away draw against Bulgaria in their qualifying Group G.
The result put them on top of the group with 15 points from seven games, with an unassailable seven point lead over third-placed Montenegro, who has two games left to play.
Already secured in the 2024 European Championship, Spain defeated Cyprus 3-1 to remain in first place in its qualifying Group A.
Lamine Yamal, Mikel Oyarzabal and Joselu each scored first-half goals to give Spain a two-point lead in Group A over second-place Scotland, which drew 2-2 at Georgia.
Spain’s final match will be against Georgia on Sunday in Valladolid, while Scotland will host Norway.
Hungary took the lead through Martin Adam’s close-range header following a free kick from captain Dominik Szoboszlai from the right after 10 minutes.
Marco Rossi’s squad seemed close to doubling their lead, but on Bulgaria’s first chance, Spas Delev scored with a shot into the top right corner to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute.
The hosts were dealt a blow before halftime when they were reduced to nine men after red cards for Valentin Antov and Ilia Gruev, but the VAR intervened to overturn the latter and keep hopes of a Bulgarian comeback alive.
Hungary were also reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Milos Kerkez was sent off and suffered a major setback in the 78th minute as Kiril Despodov scored with a penalty to give Bulgaria a 2-1 lead.
As Hungary got close to suffer their first defeat in a year, Petkov headed in his own goal from a corner seven minutes into stoppage time to send his team into their third consecutive European championship finals.
Spain clash was the final qualifying game for Cyprus, which ended with no points and a goal difference of minus 25 after eight losses.
The goal against Spain was the team’s third overall. The others had come against Georgia and Norway.
Yamal opened the scoring in the fifth minute after a couple of nifty moves to clear the goalkeeper and a defender in front of the net.
Oyarzabal added to the lead from close range in the 22nd in a goal that was initially disallowed for offside, and Joselu scored the third after a corner taken by Oyarzabal in the 28th.
Substitute Kostas Pileas scored Cyprus’ lone goal in a breakaway in the 75th.
Oyarzabal had to be substituted in the 40th with an apparent muscle injury on his left thigh. He was replaced by Rodrigo Riquelme, the Atletico Madrid midfielder who made his debut with the national team.
Bayer Leverkusen defender Alejandro Grimaldo also made his debut for Spain.