France rescue draw to dash Hungary’s hopes of an upset

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Antoine Greizmann rescued a point for world champions France as they came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with hosts Hungary in Group F and prevent a massive upset in front of a passionate full house at the Puskas Arena on Saturday.

Attila Fiola gave the hosts a dream half-time lead after France’s much-vaunted strikers missed a bevy of early chances.

But Greizmann equalised in the 66th minute to move France onto four points after two games and on track for the last 16, with Portugal to come in their final group game.

Hungary kept up their slim hopes – on one point – in a group where they had been given little chance and must now beat another heavyweight, Germany, in Munich on Wednesday to have a chance of advancing.

A heaving, 65,000-strong, mainly Hungarian crowd, the likes of which has not been seen at football since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, willed their side to a share of the points in the summer sun even if they were largely outplayed.

Greizmann finished with a powerful shot but at the end of an uncharacteristic move from the French, who for all their midfield guile and panache needed a Route One kick upfield from their goalkeeper to fashion their equaliser.

“We’ve become unaccustomed to a full house and so it was difficult with the crowd. They held us with their defensive block and we didn’t know how to finish. It proves how tough the Euros are, with great teams and great players,” the French scorer told television afterwards.

‘WE DESERVED THIS’

The French had three gilt-edged chances in the first half.

Peter Gulasci made a double save from Karim Benzema and Griezmann inside the opening quarter-hour and then watched in relief as Kylian Mbappe headed over the top from metres out.

It looked a matter of time before Les Bleus would break the deadlock but when Mbappe returned the favour to Benzema just after the half hour mark, he contrived to shoot wide when it seemed easier to score.

Their profligacy was punished at the end of the half as wingback Fiola collected a cross-field pass from Adam Nagy, played a one-two with Roland Sallai and outpaced the French defence to coolly side-foot home a goal met with rapture from the crowd.

Little had gone for Hungary up to that point, losing skipper Adam Szalai to injury in the first half.

It took until the 66th minute for the equaliser. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kicked the ball down the middle from his penalty box, which the Hungarian defence let bounce for Mbappe to reach first with his frightening pace. His square ball was barely intercepted by Willi Orban, whose effort to clear only contrived to tee up a close-in finish for Griezmann.

France failed to find a second as Hungary held their ground in the final 20 minutes then celebrated with the crowd in a rousing national anthem after the final whistle.

“Everyone has given the best of themselves,” said Sallai, “So we should be proud of ourselves. We stayed focused in the last 10 minutes, we deserved this point.”

Reuters

Photo Players of Hungary react after the UEFA EURO 2020 group F preliminary round soccer match between Hungary and France in Budapest, Hungary, 19 June 2021. EPA-EFE/Alex Pantling / POOL