Grief-stricken Hungary edged closer to their first international tournament in almost 30 years when they defeated Norway 1-0 in the opening leg of their Euro 2016 play-off on Friday.
On the day that Hungarian international goalkeeper Marton Fulop lost his battle with cancer at the age of 32, his teammates honoured his memory with a crucial victory ahead of Sunday’s return in Budapest.
Midfielder Laszlo Kleinheisler marked his international debut with the game’s only goal in the first half before Hungary, whose last major event was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, soaked up constant pressure from the home side to preserve their advantage.
Norway had the better exchanges in the first half and should have been ahead as early as the third minute.
Markus Henriksen sped down the left before cutting the ball back to Per Skjelbred who had been left in space inside the penalty area.
Marton Fulop succumbed to cancer at the age of 32
Tributes poured in on Thursday for former Hungary goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who played for a string of English Premier League clubs, after he died from cancer aged just 32.
“It is with deep sadness and grieving that we inform that after a long illness Marton Fulop has passed away,” Fulop’s former club MTK Budapest said on its website.
England coach Roy Hodgson led the tributes, saying: “I’m really devastated by the news.
“I worked with him for a year at West Brom, he was a really nice person and a good professional.
“All I can do is pass on my condolences to his family and say it is a sad day for them, but also a sad day for football too.”
Margaret Byrne, chief executive of Sunderland, Fulop’s club between 2006 and 2010, commented: “We are devastated to hear of Marton’s passing.
“He was a genuinely lovely man, liked and respected by everyone at the club during his four years with us.
“It is desperately sad when we lose a member of our Sunderland family but to lose one so young and in such circumstances is simply heart-breaking.”
As a mark of respect Hungary’s national team wore black armbands for Thursday’s Euro 2016 play-off first leg in Oslo.
Spotted at MTK’s youth academy before having played a top flight game in Hungary, Fulop was signed by Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in 2004 as backup to England international Paul Robinson.
A series of loan moves brought the Hungarian to Chesterfield, Coventry City and Sunderland, who signed Fulop in 2007 before loaning him out again to Leicester City, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion.
The player also had a short stint in Greece with Asteras Tripolis, whom he helped reach their highest ever league finish of fourth position in the 2012-2013 season.
Handed an international debut against France in 2005 by then-coach Lothar Matthaeus, Fulop kept nine clean sheets in 24 appearances for Hungary, his last game for his country coming in Amsterdam against the Netherlands in 2011.
In February 2013, Fulop reported sharp pain in his arm after saving a shot during a training session. A cancer diagnosis followed soon after.
Following an operation to remove the tumour and chemotherapy treatment, the player believed he had made a full recovery.
“I hope to carry on where I left off,” he said during an interview with Hungarian website Origo.hu in October 2013.
But although several clubs were interested in signing the player, he never returned to professional football again.
Many Hungarian clubs on Thursday posted photographs and tributes to the popular Fulop on their websites, while former teammates took to social media to pay their respects.
“My dear friend! This is unspeakable pain, but you are with us in our hearts, we are more determined than ever, we will play today for you,” Hungary and Videoton defender Roland Juhasz said in a Facebook message.
“Rest in peace Marci,” said Liverpool reserve goalkeeper and current first choice for Hungary Adam Bogdan, who changed his Twitter profile to black.