For a dizzying interval on the Puskas Enviornment, because the sweltering warmth hit 30°C and a capability residence crowd frothed with fervour and fury, France virtually grew to become misplaced at sea. The world champions had dominated the ball, in fact. Antoine Griezmann had conspired to overlook a easy tap-in. N’Golo Kante, supported by his 4 shadows, had smothered the midfield single-handedly. However for all their possibilities, for all of the inevitable suspicion that their high quality would finally inform, the primary indicators of weak spot have been showing within the event’s most interesting armoury.
Getting ready to half-time, as Karim Benzema huffed, Kylian Mbappe shrugged, and Didier Deschamps gazed glassily into the center distance, France weren’t a lot knocked off their stride as swept off their ft in what threatened to grow to be the largest upset of Euro 2020. It’s barely an exaggeration to say that the stadium shook as Attila Fiola collected a one-two, hurtled away from Benjamin Pavard and toe-poked the ball previous Hugo Lloris on the close to put up. Sixty thousand followers rose in unison and erupted right into a wave of sound. France had been hit by an earthquake of their very own pissed off complacency. And after surviving a first-half onslaught, Hungary have been making hay out of the rubble.
It has been a well-recognized sample all through Euro 2020 that, for all of the heavy favourites within the group stage, outcomes have nonetheless been hard-earned via sweat and endurance reasonably than particular person brilliance. Italy’s operatic depth took 53 minutes to succeed in a crescendo towards Turkey. In Hungary’s earlier defeat towards Portugal, they muted Cristiano Ronaldo till the finale. For Spain, the excessive notes towards Switzerland by no means got here in any respect.
And but there had at all times been extra of a surety to this France squad. Lately, they’ve operated with a degree of genius and style most worldwide sides can not even dream of matching. A slim and considerably unlucky deficit ought to hardly have marked anxious territory for an all-conquering aspect. However because the second half wore on, they grew to become extremely strung and unmistakably jittery. Presnel Kimpembe beat the turf in frustration. Raphael Varane miscued one in all a number of clearances. Even Mbappe, irrepressible within the first half, discovered the ball sticking beneath his ft. And with each mistake, as one other misplaced move or cross lifted the avalanche of strain from Hungary’s defence, the gang started to imagine that the unlikeliest of miracles was creeping right into a actuality.
However, in fact, France’s biggest energy is not only their wealth of World Cup-winning expertise, however the gluttony of riches at their disposal, too. Sensing the discomfort, Deschamps seized on Adrien Rabiot’s clumsy sort out and changed the midfielder with Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele. The substitution – and change to working successfully with 4 forwards – lastly introduced a crack within the dam. Moments after approaching, Dembele skipped down the suitable wing, faked a shot that felled two Hungary defenders, and fizzed a shot off the put up. His injection of urgency, from a seemingly bottomless pit of ammunition, galvanised France. Earlier than lengthy, the strain advised – however not with out a big sigh of French reduction.
It was not by the mark of any particular person ingenuity, however reasonably the eager eyes of Hugo Lloris that was required to chop the strain. Recognizing a two-on-two, his lengthy ball confounded Hungary’s centre-backs, permitting Mbappe to burst into the penalty space. Willi Orban obtained probably the most determined of touches on the cross, however succeeded solely in laying it completely into the trail of Griezmann. This time, with the purpose gaping, he swatted it into the nook with conviction.
However reasonably than crumble, as their faint dream dissipated, Hungary stayed decided, fought scrappily, and fed off the desire of their supporters. In a frantic last 10 minutes, nobody stood fairly as tall as Peter Gulacsi, their captain in purpose, who palmed, caught and beat away a rain of pictures. However there have been performances to savour everywhere in the pitch, a energy of the collective that harnessed the spirit that oozed from the stands. Within the dying minutes, an abundance of French high quality threw itself in tides towards a wall of resistance to no avail. Within the warmth of battle, Hungary held on to some extent that was celebrated in Budapest like a chunk of historical past.