Despite the shocking 3-1 aggregate defeat of MOL Fehérvár at the hands of Armenian side Ararat Yerevan, the nation of Hungary still has three teams fighting for their spots to participate in a European football competition in 2021. The remaining teams are Hungarian champions Ferencváros (UCL), as well as both Újpest and Felcsút (Puskás Akádemia), whom are both in the UEFA Conference League qualifiers. All three sides were fortunate to secure rather favourable draws for their second round matchups.
After an electric run that led to a Champions League birth in 2020, Fradi will be hoping to repeat their success – now without manager Serhiy Rebrov. It must be said that Fradi didn’t look particularly strong in either leg of their first round matchup with Kosovan side KF Prishtina, but they still managed to come away with a 6-1 aggregate victory in what was an unconcerned matchup for the team.
Fradi now face a second round matchup with the champions from Lithuania – FK Zalgiris Vilnius. Zalgiris have never qualified for a Champions League group stage, and as a matter of fact they’ve never even progressed passed the second round of Champions League qualifying. They’re coming off of a first-round victory over Northern Irish side Linfield, which they handily won 5-2 on aggregate, but the expectation is that Fradi will open as heavy favourites and shouldn’t have much trouble advancing.
Fradi have won 10 straight matches, and have not suffered a defeat in 17 straight – dating back to February of 2021. As far as the matchup looks, Zalgiris’ last match versus a Hungarian team was a 4-2 aggregate loss to Honvéd in the 2019-20 Europa League qualifiers. I think there’s very little reason to believe that Fradi won’t advance here, and they just need one more aggregate win to secure themselves a place in European football this fall.
Újpest vs FC Vaduz
As the 2021 Magyar Kupa winners, Újpest received a first-round bye, and slotted directly into the second round of the UEFA Conference League qualifiers. Lilák had a rather disappointing 2020-21 season in the NB I, surrendering 67 goals and winning only 12 of their 33 matches in the league. However, they knocked off Felcsút, Mezőkövesd, Kisvárda and eventually Videoton to win the Magyar Kupa, in what was an impressive campaign for the team in that competition.
Luckily for Újpest, they’ve secured a decently favourable second round draw with FC Vaduz, who find themselves in these qualifiers as the club representing the nation of Lichtenstein. Vaduz participate in Swiss football as an exempt “guest club”, which means the team is unable to represent Switzerland internationally and therefore cannot qualify for Champions League football. Instead, Vaduz have participated in the both UEFA Cup and Europa League qualifying stages each year since 1995, and have won just 13 aggregate matchups during that timeframe. They’ve never progressed beyond the third round, and have never qualified for a European competition.
Domestically, Vaduz were relegated from the Swiss Super League this past spring, after winning just 9 of 36 games in the league and finishing at the bottom of the table. As a whole, Vaduz have won just 2 of their past 11 matches as a squad, and they seem like a side that Újpest can overcome.
Felcsút vs Rigas FS
Felcsút may have drawn the toughest matchup of all three Hungarian sides, being drawn against Rigas FS from Latvia. Felcsút are coming off of a 3-1 aggregate win over Finnish side Inter Turku, after a 2-0 victory on home soil salvaged a disappointing 1-1 draw on the road in the first leg.
Rigas have been an upcoming team in Latvia over the past few seasons, and are coming off an impressive 6-5 aggregate win over Faroese club KÍ Klaksvík. After suffering a 3-2 home defeat in the first match, Rigas then stunned Klaksvík on the road with a 4-2 victory in extra time, despite being the considerable underdog. In their domestic league, Rigas have won 11 of 14 games so far during their season, and while the competition in Latvia isn’t particularly strong, they’re a club that are in great form.
While the circumstances surrounding the club make it difficult to root for Felcsút, I hope to see them succeed in the European setting and I think this is a matchup they can win. They have enough quality in their team to progress, and a potential Conference League birth would be fantastic experience for exciting Hungarian youngsters like Tamás Kiss, György Komáromi and Zsombor Gruber.
In summary, I think all three of remaining Hungarian sides find themselves in a strong position to progress. On paper, each team matches up well with their opponents, but all three will need to be at their best to be victorious. Hajrá Magyarok!