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gabor kiralyWhen Hertha Berlin goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly pulled on an international jersey for Hungary in 1998 in a 3-2 friendly win against Austria in Vienna, I don’t think the 22-year-old could have envisaged he would be his country’s first choice almost eighteen years later going into a major tournament.

He quickly established himself as the number one for Hungary and that remained the case for over eight years until he left Crystal Palace for Burnley.  He spent a difficult time with the Clarets, forced at one point to act as substitute reserve team goalkeeper to Peruvian Diego Penny, and wasn’t considered for Hungary during that time; this after already winning seventy caps.

A move to TSV Munich in the summer of 2009 soon saw him recalled and he’s gone on to take his total of caps to 103 during which time he’s firmly established himself as first choice again.

Since making that debut in 1998, he’s played twice more against Austria; like his debut they were both friendly internationals with one drawn in Budapest and the other won in Graz.

Today he is in the side to play them again but this time in the Euro finals in France, the first time Hungary have qualified since 1972. That makes it a very special day for Hungary and for Kiraly who celebrated his 40th birthday on April Fools’ Day this year.

He’ll be donning those jogging pants for his 104th cap and in doing so will become the oldest player ever to appear in a Euro finals, beating the previous record set by German midfielder Lothar Matthäus whose last appearance was in the 2000 finals at the age of 39.

It’s a fantastic achievement for Gabor who made just 29 appearances for the Clarets, all of them in the 2007/08 season.

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