Hungary are enjoying their first major tournament for 30 years and a 1-1 draw with Iceland Saturday leaves them well placed to continue their Euro 2016 adventure into the knock-out phase.
"We are exceeding all our expectations and dreams," captain Balazs Dzsudzsak said with the team sitting on four points to top Group F from Iceland, Portugal (both on two) and Austria (on one).
The final round takes place on Wednesday with Hungary taking on stuttering group favourites Portugal in Lyon while Iceland meet Austria elsewhere. Hungary are guaranteed to finish no worse than third and even a loss to Portugal could see them qualify automatically should the other match be drawn.
"Four points - if someone had told me that before the tournament I wouldn't have thought it possible," coach Bernd Storck said.
The margins in the Iceland game were fine as Hungary only rescued a draw two minutes from time thanks to Birkir Saevarsson's own goal. However, few can deny their point was merited given their comeback after a rare error from veteran keeper Gabor Kiraly led to the concession of a first half penalty.
"We performed fantastically and in the end we scored to get a point," Dzsudzsak said. "It is still unbelievable to be talking about things like this.
"We are proving that our qualification was no accident, and we deserve credit because nobody would have thought we would be top on four points at this stage. Our aim is to stay disciplined and we will see what happens."
But if Hungary are exceeding expectations, what can be said of minnows Iceland who are also in contention to reach the last 16?
The tiny country of 330,000 people can proudly claim to be unbeaten so far at their maiden major finals and now move north to Saint-Denis game of destiny with the so far disappointing Austrians.
“The dressing room was silent after the game,” conceded the co-coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, after the own goal cancelled out Gylfi Sigurdsson's opener. “But we have to be upbeat. I think we are the only team in Europe that hasn’t lost at a finals.
"It is good to never have lost. We are still in it. But we were so close to almost securing a win and that’s what is disappointing.”
The natural disappointment of being so close and falling will surely not last. If Iceland were offered the opportunity to go into the last match with a chance of qualification - a draw will ensure they finish at least third - they would surely have taken it.
"We are lucky that we are in the last group so we can see if one point is enough or if we need to go for the win," Hallgrimsson said.
"We are in a good position as we will know the permutations before the game. We are fortunate in that respect. Even though we'll always go for the three points it is good to know if we need to take risks."
Saturday, June 18, 2016 - 20:59
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 10:18
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 21:39