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May 30, 2017

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Dutch test for Hungary as Spain hit the road

BERNE, Switzerland -- Hungarians may find out whether their team's recent improvements are signs of a genuine revival or a false dawn when they face Netherlands in a soccer World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Austria and Belgium, who like Hungary are aiming to end long spells in the wilderness, also have home games which could by pivotal for their hopes of qualifying for Brazil in 2014.

The Austrians will be attempting to end a run of seven consecutive defeats against neighbors Germany while underachieving Belgium host Croatia, a country which has often punched above its weight in soccer terms.

Spain begin their title defense with a long trip to Georgia while France, Portugal and England all have a good chance of finishing Tuesday with six points from two games as they follow winning starts with reasonably straightforward home games.

France host Belarus in Group I, England play Ukraine, a team they beat during Euro 2012 in Group H, and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal entertain Azerbaijan in Group F.

Italy, held 2-2 in Bulgaria on Friday, should have little trouble at home to Malta in Group B.

Hungary's current team are a long way from the Mighty Magyars, who revolutionized soccer in the early 1950s, but they are regarded as a vast improvement on some of the country's recent offerings.

Their third place at the world under-20 championship in Egypt three years ago suggested that a bumper crop of young talent is on the way.

Recent performances at senior level, led by players such as winger Balazs Dzsudzsak and forward Adam Szalai, have also shown signs of promise.

They managed a respectable six wins in 10 games as they finished third in their Euro 2012 qualifying group which also featured Sweden and Netherlands.

Coach Sandor Erevgari, who pleaded for stability when he took over two years ago after leading the under-20 side in Egypt, has survived his first qualifying campaign and continued into the next two-year cycle.

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