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Russia among Hungary challengers

Published: Thursday 22 March 2012, 10.22CET
Elite round Group 7 hosts Hungary have high hopes having embarked on a winning run but are up against a Russia side of promise and are also challenged by Belgium and Wales.
Russia among Hungary challengers
Hungary will be on home soil ©MLSZ
Published: Thursday 22 March 2012, 10.22CET

Russia among Hungary challengers

Elite round Group 7 hosts Hungary have high hopes having embarked on a winning run but are up against a Russia side of promise and are also challenged by Belgium and Wales.

Hungary
István Pisont, who took over as coach from Ferenc Bene Jr prior to this season's tournament, is aiming to take Hungary to their first finals since 2006 after five straight elite round exits. Hungary warmed up with two games against Slovakian opposition at Telki in the past month, recording 5-1 and 5-0 wins against Dukla Banská Bystrica and MŠK Žilina, respectively. Following the Žilina game Pisont said: "I'm happy with the result. I saw room for improvement in our play; our rhythm wasn't what it could be and sometimes we over-elaborated. However, it is to the players' credit that everyone worked well and concentrated on their task. It has been a successful get-together."

Qualifying round: Belarus 4-1, Andorra 4-0, Norway 3-2 (Group 1 winners)

Key players: Dávid Asztalos (defender, MTK Budapest), Krisztián Tamás (defender, AC Milan), Gergely Bobál (forward, Budapest Honvéd), Zoltán Farkas (forward, Győri ETO)

Russia
Mikhail Solovyev's year in charge has proved successful so far. His team reached the Viktor Bannikov Memorial tournament final in Ukraine, won their EURO qualifying round group and took bronze at the Minsk tournament, beating elite round opponents Belgium in their last game. "It is very good that we have already played against them," said Solovyev. "We know how to play against them now." Russia had a training camp in Israel in the end of February and in two friendlies against their hosts drew 1-1 and won 4-0, before moving on to prepare in Austria.

Qualifying round: Portugal 1-1, Romania 1-0, Finland 3-1 (Group 2 winners).

Key players: Denis Davydov (midfielder, FC Spartak Moskva), Dmitri Mikhaylenko (midfielder, FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Aleksei Kurzenev (striker, FC Lokomotiv Moskva).

Belgium
Belgium won an exciting qualifying round decider 4-3 against Croatia to go through, though double goalscorer Deni Milosevic's red card leaves him suspended against Hungary on Friday. Having lost to Russia to finish fourth in Minsk, in February Belgium were beaten 2-1 at home by reigning European champions the Netherlands. "I gave a number of lads some rest after the qualification tournament and tested some new players," said coach Patrick Klinkenberg, who has returned to his strongest squad for the elite round.

Qualifying round: Ukraine 0-2, Azerbaijan 1-0, Croatia 4-3 (Group 7 winners)

Key players: Corentin Fiore (defender, R. Standard de Liège), Deni Milosevic (midfielder, R. Standard de Liège), Tuur Dierckx (forward, Club Brugge KV)

Wales
Wales progressed as one of the two best third-placed qualifying round teams, but Brian Flynn – also in charge of the Under-21 and U19 sides – is optimistic they can get to their first-ever final tournament at this level. "They have a good chance of making progress." Flynn said.

Qualifying round: Armenia 2-3, Lithuania 2-0, Serbia 1-6 (Group 9 third place)

Key players: Gethyn Hill (forward, Cardiff City AFC), Delcan Weeks (midfielder, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC).

Last updated: 04/04/12 17.01CET

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