Serbia qualified for Euro 2024 – its first European finals place as an independent country – after a nervy 2-2 home draw against Bulgaria in its final Group G game on Sunday.
Dragan Stojkovic’s team knew that a point would be enough, even if Montenegro beat already qualified Hungary. Montenegro, the third-placed team in the group, prevailed in Budapest but lost 3-1. Serbia, meanwhile, fell behind in the second half before Srdjan Babic secured qualification with a late equaliser.
It had looked straightforward for the hosts when Milos Veljkovic headed in the opener in the 16th minute, but the fans in Leskovac began to feel the nerves after Slobodan Rubezic scored for Montenegro in the first half some 500 miles away.
Bulgaria, bottom of the group and looking for their first win, fought back in the second half as Georgi Rusev equalized with a fine finish in the 59th minute. Kiril Despodov, who hit the crossbar in the first half, stunned the home crowd ten minutes later when he lifted the ball over Vanja Milinkovic-Savic to give the visitors the lead.
Luckily for Serbia, news came quickly that Dominik Szoboszlai had scored two goals within two minutes to give Hungary the lead. Babic then headed home from close range in the 82nd minute to equalize and get the celebrations started.
Hungary is at the top with 18 points, Serbia with 14 points. Montenegro finished third with 11 points but will not make it to the playoffs as places are awarded based on performance in the Nations League. Bulgaria comes last with four points, behind Lithuania with six points.