BUDAPEST: Fumbling France, far from their best, fought back from a goal down to hold hosts Hungary 1-1 in their Euro 2020 Group E tie in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
Coach Didier Deschamps’s men, holders of the World Cup and Euro runners-up five years ago, had beaten Germany comparatively comfortably in their opening match. But the found the Hungarians, spurred on in 30-degree heat by an excitable capacity 60,000 crowd, a different matter entirely.
France commanded the first half. Kylian Mbappe headed just wide in the 16th minute then touched back a long ball from Griezmann only for Karim Benzema to shoot wastefully wide. Mbappe and Paul Pogba both went close and a French goal appeared imminent.
Instead it was Hungary who scored, two minutes into first-half stoppage time. Left wingback Attila Fiola exchanged passes with Rolland Sallai, accelerated away from Benjamin Pavard then raced on to outwit Raphael Varane and shoot decisively beyond Hugo Lloris.
Hungary had been disappointed to lose their first tie by 3-0 against Portugal but they had staged a lively performance in that game and had been beaten only by a late Ronaldo-inspired flurry of goals.
Their teamwork and team spirit had remained positive but, as this game ran on, so their concentration began to slip.
France sent on winger Ousmane Dembele in place of midfielder Adrien Rabiot in the 57th minute and he made an instant impact, shooting against keeper Peter Gulasci’s left-hand post two minutes after his arrival.
Hungary were unable to heed the warning. In the 66th minute Lloris lofted a long clearance downfield, Mbappe battled for possession before crossing to his left for Griezmann to shoot the equaliser.
From then on it was all France
Mbappe saw a fierce drive parried by Gulasci who then dived low to his right to deny another substitute in Corentin Tolisso. Raphael Varane headed wide of an open goal with the last touch of the game but defeat would have been cruel on Hungary.
Marco Rossi, Hungary coach: “My team played an exceedingly good tactical match, and carried out their business with the correct amount of bravery and heart. I can only thank them. Nowadays, many coaches are convinced that the team wins because of the coach’s tactics. They’re wrong. The players are always the lead characters. Today they performed. It was unimaginable.”
Attila Fiola, Hungary goalscorer: “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.”
Didier Deschamps, France coach: “I’m satisfied – I’m not overjoyed with the result, but I’m satisfied. We didn’t lose, we do have a point to add to the three we have in the bag already. I think this still leaves the door open for us to have a little bit of leeway for the third game.”
Hugo Lloris, France captain: “In this sort of match, it’s difficult when your opponents go ahead. They were well organised and put their hearts into it with the help of the crowd. We’re disappointed, we wanted three points, but we have to stay positive.”
Hungary: Gulácsi; Botka, Orbán, At. Szalai; Nagy; Négo, Kleinheisler (Lovrencsics 84), Schäfer (Cseri 75), Fiola; Ad. Szalai (Nikolić 26), Sallai.
France: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Digne; Pogba (Tolisso 76), Kanté, Rabiot (Dembélé 57, Lemar 87); Benzema (Giroud 76), Griezmann, Mbappé.
Referee: Oliver (Eng).