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Hungary Heroically Draws with France at Second EURO Game

Ábrahám Vass 2021.06.19.

With an excellent performance, Hungary drew with reigning World Champion France in the team’s second game of EURO 2020. Hungary took the lead thanks to a wonderful goal by Attila Fiola, to which Antoine Griezmann responded in the second half. Hungary’s national team claimed its first point of the tournament in the packed Puskás Arena.

After Tuesday’s bitter defeat to defending European Champion Portugal, the Hungarian squad geared up for a potentially even tougher game against the reigning World Champions. Such is life when Lady Luck throws you into the Group of Death.

EURO 2020: Luck Favors Portugal, but Hungary Leaves Pitch with Heads Held High
EURO 2020: Luck Favors Portugal, but Hungary Leaves Pitch with Heads Held High

The organized and determined Hungarian squad can be proud of its performance despite the unjust result.Continue reading

Although the French team was very polite in the statements they made before the game, the odds definitely were not in Hungary’s favor. France, besides being currently ranked the second best team in the world and having countless superstars on their team, has had a great showing at the EUROs so far with their victory against Germany a few days ago.

Moreover, while France was a finalist in EURO 2016 (only to be defeated by Hungary’s previous opponents, Portugal) and won the World Championships three years ago, this is only the second European tournament Hungary has qualified for since 1986.

It is also worth mentioning that the French team is worth some 15 times more than the Hungarian team (EUR 900 million vs. 60 million). When French coach Didier Deschamps praised the Hungarian team and its Italian coach at one of the pre-match interviews, his counterpart, Marco Rossi was surprised that Deschamps even knew who he was.

Recent years have not seen many games between the two sides, and the matches played in the last 40 years are not really reflective of the current Hungarian team. For the last competitive game, we have to go back to the 1986 World Cup (the last major international event that Hungary qualified for before the spectacular EURO 2016 run) ended with a sobering slap (0-3) from the Michel Platini-led team. And only two friendlies have been played since then, both won by France.

A carnival before the Game

Walking on Budapest’s streets, one could hardly tell that there had been a deadly pandemic raging for months — pubs were now full with fans, and hardly anyone wore a mask on the streets and in the stadium. Additionally, from Thursday night onward, there have been scores of French fans roaming the capital as well.

The loss to Portugal has not caused the Hungarian fans to be any less enthusiastic about their team, as Budapest has again been turned to a carnival by the fans before the kick-off. Thousands marched from Heroes Square to the stadium, cheering loudly and lighting firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI

And the same packed stadium with the same truly magnificent atmosphere awaited the teams. France was accompanied by a lot more of their supporters, totaling around 6,000 (compared to 1000-1500 Portuguese fans), although it is likely that many of them belong to Budapest’s sizable French expat community.

First half: French dominance, Hungarian goal

This was the first time that Hungary’s naturalized French-born defender was on the pitch against his birth country. Loïc Négo was born in Paris and was a member of the French youth national teams until 2011, reportedly sharing a room with super-star Griezmann during training camps.

The heat (35 C) definitively has not helped the teams. At first, statistics and predictions seemed to be right, as France started-off the game by dominating and putting pressure on the Hungarian team, although the Hungarians still managed to break into the French penalty area on a few occasions. On the opposite side of the pitch, the aggressive and organized Hungarian defense and goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi’s heroics prevented France from scoring.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian team lost its captain, as hard-working Ádám Szalai had to be taken off in the 26th minute due to an injury. The French did not let up on the pressure, as the end of the first half was nearing the game looked to be heading towards a clear French victory.

But then the unexpected happened, when wing-back Attila Fiola, a right-footed player who, due to a lack of left-side wingbacks was playing on the opposite side, managed to score following an excellent pass from fast-paced attacker Roland Sallai. The Puskás Arena erupted as Hungarian fans celebrated the fantastic goal.

Second half: An even game and an equalizer

Unlike the first half, the second was a more balanced affair. The French team was pushing hard, although it seemed like they were becoming increasingly agitated with the stubbornness of the Hungarian defenders.

After Ousmane Dembélé’s shot struck the outside of the post, their efforts eventually proved to be fruitful when Antoine Griezmann managed to equalize in the 66th minute, somewhat cooling off French nerves. A good Hungarian defense and a world class performance from goalkeeper Gulácsi, however, left them frustrated. The result was that the Hungarian team managed to fight out a draw against France.

Deciding game in Germany

It should come as no surprise that fans of the home team continued celebrating long after the final whistle. This is certainly a result to be proud of and to derive strength from for the future.

With this tie, the Hungarian team claimed its first point in EURO 2020 and it should not say goodbye to dreams of qualification to the round of 16 either. In the last round of the group stage, the Hungarian team is set to travel to Munich, Germany, to clash with another one of the best national teams of the world.

“I’ve always been watching the European Championships on television so far, and now I’m looking around here with amazement, like kids in the amusement park. But if we’re already here at the amusement park, we want to play some, we want to perform well, but we have to stay on the ground. Now we are off to Munich and we will try to do our best there too,” head coach Marco Rossi commented after the surprising result.

With their determination and grit, the Hungarian players have already made their mark on the EUROs, and they will have an opportunity on Wednesday to further prove their worth.

The celebration after Fiola’s goal. Photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI

Hungary – France 1-1 (1-0)
Budapest, Puskás Aréna. Attendance: 55,998.
Hungary: Gulácsi – Botka, Orbán, A. Szalai – Nego, Á. Nagy, Kleinheisler (Lovrencsics, 84.), Schäfer (Cseri, 75.), Fiola – Á. Szalai (Nikolics, 26.), Sallai. 
France:
Lloris – Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Digne – Pogba (Tolisso, 76.), Kanté, Rabiot (O. Dembélé, 57.; Lemar, 87.) – Benzema (Giroud, 76.), Griezmann, Mbappé.
Goals: Fiola (45+2.), ill. Griezmann (66.)

Featured photo via Tamás Kovács/MTI