Hungary are in the driving seat after the 1-0 victory in Oslo that saw veteran Gabor Kiraly and Laszlo Kleinheisler, making his first ever appearance for the national team, prove unlikely heroes. But, with Norway having largely dominated the encounter, this tie is far from over and the Nordic side definitely stand a chance of getting back into the game.
With rock-solid defensive showings proving the main reason why Hungary had come into the position to fight for a place at the Euro 2016, it is hardly surprising that experienced coach Bernd Storck opted for a defence-minded approach to the first leg at Ullevaal Stadium. And while the inclusion of Tamas Kadar in place of attacking full-back Leandro de Almeida seemed like a logical choice, the German coach shocked everyone by handing a debut to Laszlo Kleinheisler, a player who hadn’t played a single competitive match at club level since May. But, the Videoton youngster quickly justified his inclusion, scoring the only goal of the game, while proving a real menace for Norway defenders before he was finally substituted midway through the second period. Veteran Zoltan Gera and fellow midfielder Akos Elek also did a great job in the centre of the park, so no doubt the former West Bromwich star will be sorely missed given that he is suspended for the return match. The good news is that experienced centre-back Roland Juhasz is back from a one-match ban, while Adam Nagy and Gergo Lovrencsics are pushing for starting places as well. Given the one-goal advantage from the first leg, Hungary could adopt a similar approach to the one used three days ago despite playing at home this time out.
Even if they had narrowly missed out on an automatic qualifying berth, Norway went into the Hungary game on a high, buoyed by some impressive showings against top sides over the last few months. Just as we expected, the Nordic side dominated the game from start to finish, creating some very good chances to score, but they were ultimately unable to break their hard-working opponents, with Alexander Soderlund and Per-Ciljan Skjelbred missing several good chances and second-half substitute Pal-Andre Helland hitting a crossbar late into the game. Norway had a total of 16 corners and plenty of free-kicks in dangerous positions, but Celtic starlet Stefan Johansen’s execution from those set-pieces was quite poor, with veteran Gabor Kiraly coming out a winner in most of these duels. Nevertheless, Norway proved that they had enough quality to carve out good goalscoring opportunities and if they had been just a bit more composed in the final third, they would have gotten something from the game. With Marcus Pedersen likely to replace Alexander Soderlund up front, Per-Mathias Hogmo’s side should be more dangerous up front seeing that the Rosenborg striker is not exactly perfect fit for players like Skjelbred and Henriksen, who need a more mobile striker in order to make their creativity count. One of Martin Odegaard or Pal Andre Helland could come in for Jo Inge Berget, and if the latter starts in Budapest, the visitors will also be a bigger threat from set-pieces, considering that the Rosenborg winger would take over set-piece duties from Stefan Johansen.
Norway showed a great deal of promise in the first leg and they were quite unfortunate not to score a single goal, so we definitely expect them to make things right in Budapest. Meanwhile, Hungary will again have plenty of chances to hit the opposition on the break, and we, therefore, recommend backing both teams to score.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 23/20
Bookmaker: William Hill