Griezmann rescues draw as Hungary nearly shock France

Hungary scored first and looked on course for one of the great Euro Cup upsets before Griezmann’s goal gave France a share of the points in the Group F encounter.

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This was not how the script was supposed to go. France is the reigning world champions. Their players are miles better on paper, and supposedly on the pitch as well. In fact, they dominated most of this match. A French victory seemed a certainty, a sure thing, nailed on. Apparently, Hungary never got the memo.

 

Their left-back Attila Fiola produced a barnstorming, script-ripping gallop in the dying seconds of the first half, holding off the French defense and slotting past Hugo Lloris into the bottom corner. Fiola then rushed off to celebrate lustily with teammates and fans, at one point knocking some items off a pitchside reporter’s table, in a packed, bouncing Puskas Arena in Budapest.

 

France managed to pick up the pieces and restore a sense of normality in the 66th minute. From the right side of the box, Kylian Mbappe drove the ball across the goal and it deflected Antoine Griezmann, who slammed it in from close range. VAR then denied French appeals for a penalty in the final minute and Hungary held on for the draw.

 

France came into this fixture on the back of an authoritative 1-0 victory over Germany that enhanced their status as tournament favorites. In their previous game, Hungary kept Portugal at bay for 80 minutes but then conceded three goals in the final ten. But, as in that game, they could count on home advantage with 67,000 boisterous fans packing the stadium in Budapest.

 

Both managers made one change each to their respective starting lineups. Didier Deschamps brought in Lucas Digne to replace Lucas Hernandez at left-back, while Marco Rossi summoned the France-born right wingback Loic Nego for Gergo Lovrencsics.

 

Perhaps unnerved by the home crowd, France got off to a slow start just like they did against Germany. Hungary rode the waves of support for the first 10 minutes. But the first real chance fell to France, with Karim Benzema’s daisy-cutter from 20 yards well saved by Peter Gulacsi. Griezmann somehow fired the rebound straight back at the keeper, but the offside flag saved his blushes.

 

France assumed control and, three minutes later, Benzema slid a pass to Digne who sent in a lovely, inviting cross from the left. Mbappe arrived late and connected with a header that sailed just wide of the far post. This established a period of sterile French dominance, with Hungary staying back.

 

The heat was an issue, however, and the worryingly groggy Hungary captain Adam Szalai was taken off due to circulation problems from overheating. The soaring temperatures also led to water breaks being taken in the middle of each half.

 

In the 31st minute, Mbappe made a fine angled run into the area, controlled the pass from Griezmann and back-heeled brilliantly to Benzema. The Real Madrid forward, however, missed the absolute sitter and sent his shot wide. A couple more instances of mesmerizing footwork from Mbappe and Paul Pogba were both let down by further poor finishing, but Benzema’s was the most glaring miss.

 

But then, as the half wound down, came the moment that sent the Puskas Arena into raptures. Adam Nagy drove a crossfield pass to Fiola just inside the French half. Fiola played a one-two with Rolland Sallai and surged past Benjamin Pavard. Raphael Varane tried to unbalance him but Fiola just shrugged him off to enter the area and slide a low shot past Lloris at the near post.

A 31-year-old wing-back who had never played for a club outside Hungary had just scored against the world champions. The magic of international football, right there.

 

France went off at halftime in a state of shock but reemerged looking determined. They immediately went back to bossing the game and created several half-chances, but the equalizer evaded them.

 

Ten minutes into the half, Deschamps made an attacking change by replacing the quiet Adrien Rabiot with Ousmane Dembele. It nearly paid off in the 59th when Dembele left a couple of Hungarian defenders for dead and unleashed a rocket that flew past Gulacsi but thumped off the outside of the post.

 

France’s pressure finally paid off in the 66th minute, when a long ball from Lloris was allowed to bounce by the Hungarian defense. Mbappe muscled in and took possession on the right side of the area, then drove the ball across the face of the goal. A deflection off Willi Orban sent the ball into the path of Griezmann, who made no mistake from about five yards to silence the crowd.

 

Griezmann became the joint-third highest scorer at the European Championship, alongside Alan Shearer with 7 goals and only behind compatriot Michel Platini, on 9, and Cristiano Ronaldo, on 12.

 

The crowd gradually grew back in volume and the Hungarian players fed off their energy to keep out wave after wave of French attacks. Gulacsi made a good save off Mbappe in the 82nd minute and another moment later from a Corentin Tolisso long shot.

 

There was an appeal for a penalty to France in the fourth minute of stoppage time after Endre Botka grabbed onto Presnel Kimpembe’s shirt while they contested a corner inside the box. But VAR failed to find enough evidence to overturn the referee. At the final whistle, Hungary’s players celebrated the point like they had won the game while France quickly made their exit as the stadium erupted once more.

 

The result meant that France topped the group and ensured qualification for the knockouts but their chances of topping the group took a serious blow against the weakest team in the group. They will face Portugal in an exciting final match.

 

The precious point also sustained Hungary’s slim hopes of progress to the next stage. But to do so they will have to beat Germany, a result that would send out even bigger shockwaves. And they will have to do it in Munich, deprived of home advantage. Another write-off for the Hungarians? Another script set in stone? Considering today’s evidence, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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