Hungary secured a 1-1 draw against France, meaning they have a slim chance of entering the Euro 2020 knockouts from a tough Group F.
Group F in Euro 2020 was dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ by fans due to the presence of Germany, France and Portugal in the same group. The potential for so many top matches in the group stages itself was very appealing. No one gave much thought to Hungary; if anything, most felt a tinge of pity for them. Now, after securing a 1-1 draw against France, they have a slim chance of entering the knockouts. To quote Sir Alex Ferguson, “football, bloody hell”.
Given Portugal beat Hungary 3-0, many expected that world champions France would have no issues dispatching them. Those who did, perhaps did not watch Hungary’s first game.
They might not be easy on the eye, but the Hungarians are hard-working and well organised. Even Portugal, the defending Euro champions, took 84 minutes to break them down.
That they conceded 2 quickfire goals after that was down as much to their spirits being broken as it did to Portugal’s relentless attacking. But Hungary held on for the draw this time around.
The permutations and combinations for who makes it out of this group are yet to be finalised. Yet, it is also safe to say that few if any people gave Hungary a chance to be one of three teams to get out of Group F.
The match fell into a predictable pattern early on – France kept the ball and Hungary defended for their lives. Luckily for Hungary, France did little with the ball to begin with.
However, as the half wore on, France found their rhythm and created a few chances. Antoine Griezmann missed a sitter from close range on the rebound but was flagged offside anyway.
And Karim Benzema, picked once again in place of Olivier Giroud, let another close range chance go begging. Kylian Mbappe put a header just wide of the near post.
France had plenty of the ball but were unable to apply the finishing touch up front. As it turned out, this would cost them at the end of the first half.
Hungary, meanwhile, had issues of their own. Adam Szalai clearly felt the effect of the heat and was forced off. The players, naturally, took a water break straight after.
The stoppage due to that, however, worked out well for the Hungarians. Five minutes were added on at the end of the half and Attila Fiola found himself in space.
He headed it infield towards Sallai, collected the return and ran past Pavard towards the penalty area. With the French defence wrong-footed, Fiola ran on and slid one past Hugo Lloris at the near post.
Hungary, seen by many as the wooden spoon contenders in this group, sat second as the two sides went into the break.
France brought on Ousmane Dembele in the second half and switched formations. Rather than 4-3-3, they went for a 4-2-3-1 with the extra man in attack.
The change didn’t work out too well at first. Hungary, defending with numbers behind the ball, looked comfortable as France passed the ball around listlessly.
But as is often the case in such matches, a moment is all it takes to spark a team back into life. That is exactly what happened when Dembele unleased a shot from distance that slammed into the post.
Suddenly, France realised they didn’t need to be too intricate at all times and could be more direct. As a result, their equaliser came from a sequence that wouldn’t look too out of place in the England teams of old.
Lloris rammed a free-kick straight to Mbappe, who let the ball bounce. Crucially, the Hungarian defenders let it bounce too. He took control of the ball, out-muscled one player and played the ball across goal.
Griezmann was in position to slam home a simple chance and France had their equaliser.
Yet that was as good as it got for France. They pushed forward in numbers, but couldn’t find anything in the way of a winner. Hungary, by contrast, defended even harder, determined perhaps to avoid the kind of collapse they suffered against Portugal.
When the final whistle went, the Hungarian players and a full-capacity crowd at the Puskas Stadium in Budapest let out a collective roar. Their Euro 2020 dream was, amazingly, still alive.