Hungary almost produced the upset of Euro 2020 so far as they held world champions France to a draw in a big shock in Group F.
An early look at the Group F fixture between Hungary and France at the Puskas Arena in Budapest certainly gives a feel that a cakewalk may be in store for the latter. The Euro 2016 finalists had recorded a triumph in their group opener against Germany, emerging victorious by a 1-0 margin. Paul Pogba was on top of his game, making his presence felt with a fantastic performance. Kylian Mbappe had similarly done his glowing reputation on harm. Germany had been left in no position to make a comeback, with complete dominance at every stage. Hungary on the other hand had been defeated by Portugal following a 3-0 scoreline. However, the final score certainly did not showcase the true picture as France soon realised.
The Hungarians had been absolutely rock solid against a Portuguese side comprising of the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo in the first half, but faltered after the break following a spectacular display by the latter. There is no shame in conceding a game to a footballing maestro as powerful as the Juventus attacker. However, what assumed supreme importance was a desire to learn and improvise from the mistakes in the defeat against Portugal. Hungary certainly ensured the same, holding on to a 1-1 draw against France with a sublime performance. The team ensured an outstanding display, backed by fans who churned out one of the best atmospheres ever witnessed in a football match. Hungary defended in an astute manner, taking full advantage of the opportunity as it arose. One of the top performers for the team was defender Attila Fiola.
Fiola became the first player to score against France across all competitions in the last six games. His opener ended a run of 527 minutes of play without shipping a goal for the national team. The right-back played a running one-two with Roland Sallai, beat Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane, and slid his shot past Hugo Lloris. The footballer scored only his second international goal and Hungary’s first in the 2020 edition of the Euros.
“We achieved a fantastic result with a great team game. I am proud of the side, and also the fans. This is one of the most beautiful days of my life. It was great to see how well the team played. We were able to showcase braver football and were better in attack than against Portugal on Tuesday. Today was amazing,” he said as quoted by UEFA.
Fiola enjoyed quality support from Salloi and Peter Gulacsi who stood tall frustrating the French attackers with their resolute nature and disciplined gameplay. Hungary had just 34 percent possession against France, they were outshot by 10 and had four touches inside the opposition box which makes the point even more unbelievable.
Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas hailed the passion and togetherness of the players.
“You’ve got to love it. The passion, the togetherness that Hungary have shown today. They really dug deep to get that result. Their fans are hugely proud of them. The French in the second half just didn’t quite get it right. They got the goal, got themselves back in it but it’s Hungary’s day,” he said as quoted by BBC.
While Hungary delivered a fantastic performance, the French attackers were also to blame for failing to take advantage of the opportunities presented. Karim Benzema struggled to connect effectively early on, followed by Kylian Mbappe heading off target. The absence of Hungary captain Adam Szalai who was forced off injured midway through the first half, presented an avenue for the World Champions to take advantage. However, Benzema half-volleyed wide despite being set up perfectly by Griezmann and Mbappe.
Ousmane Dembele further contributed to the wastefulness, smashing an effort against the past. However, Griezmann ensured a goal when the team desperately needed one, taking advantage of Mbappe working the ball back via a Will Orban deflection to smash in the equaliser. The Barcelona attacker scored his seventh goal in Euros, one ahead of Thierry Henry and behind only Michel Platini’s nine for France. He has further featured in 50 successive matches for France. Interestingly, Paris-born Loic Nego, brought into Hungary’s starting line-up, was in the France squad that won the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, where his roommate was Griezmann.
Bixente Lizarazu who won the 2000 edition of the Euros with France, termed it as a “very average” display.
“That was a very average France display. Credit to the Hungarian team’s performance. France were lucky to come back but weren’t enough of a threat. Congratulations to Hungary,” he said as quoted by UEFA’s official website.
“60,000 fans here and you could tell Hungary were lifted by the fans. They had something to hang on to and boy did they do that. They showed a great attitude and they were a threat as well, but France only have themselves to blame,” read the message from Alan Shearer.
It will be interesting to note how France react to this impressive performance against Hungary.