Antoine Griezmann rescues France but cannot quieten the Hungary delirium

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Tibor Illyes/EPA</span>
Photograph: Tibor Illyes/EPA

The Puskas Arena will not reverberate with such intensity, noise and passion even if it ends up staging the final of Euro 2020. Unless Hungary reach it, of course. This was their moment, France was their final, and they produced an occasion that will reside long in the memory of every Hungarian present, holding the world champions to a wildly celebrated draw.

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Hungary songs continued to echo around the stadium an hour after Michael Oliver had brought an engrossing fight to a close. Marco Rossi’s entire playing staff went to the end housing their hardcore support and soaked in the acclaim before embarking on a full lap of the pitch. It was remarkable they had the energy having expended so much in taking the lead through Attila Fiola and repelling France’s attempts to add to Antoine Griezmann’s 38th international goal. All in temperatures that soared into the 90s.

France, by contrast, exited sharpish. Their industry was also faultless but their inspiration wilted in the face of a determined red wall, particularly after Griezmann’s equaliser. There were flashes, mainly from Kylian Mbappé, but whenever France did find a gap Peter Gulacsi, the Hungary goalkeeper, plugged it.

Peter Gulacsi, Endre Botka and Attila Szalai celebrate at the final whistle.
Peter Gulacsi, Endre Botka and Attila Szalai celebrate at the final whistle. Photograph: Darko Bandić/AP

“The temperatures had more of an impact on us than the opponent,” Didier Deschamps said. “I’m not trying to make excuses but it’s a reality. We are talking temperatures of 35-36 degrees and the players were asking for water breaks every five minutes. Yesterday we trained at 2.15pm and they were out of breath it was so hot. But Hungary were wonderful in front of their home crowd. They gave it their all.”

Hungary took a point and perhaps made one to Uefa with Budapest the backup option for the semi-finals and final should 2,500 freeloaders – apologies; Uefa officials, VIPs, sponsors, politicians and broadcasters – be refused exemption from the UK government restrictions that apply to everyone else in the country. As a spectacle, a quarter-filled Wembley cannot compete with the Puskas Arena and its near full-capacity, full-volume crowds.

Rossi’s team performed with the aggression that characterised their approach against Portugal but also with a bravery in possession and ambition largely absent from Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat. They suffered a worrying loss when their captain, Adam Szalai, had to be substituted with 26 minutes gone. The striker “got a blow to his head which made him dizzy”, according to a statement from the Hungarian Football Association, and was taken to hospital.

After a scrappy start, when Benjamin Pavard was harshly booked for stumbling into the excellent Roland Sallai, France asserted authority in midfield and hoped for class to prevail up front. Despite Mbappé’s mesmerising efforts, individual brilliance could not beat Hungary’s collective endeavour.

Mbappé created France’s first opportunity for Karim Benzema, whose low drive was tipped away by Gulacsi. Griezmann failed to convert the rebound but was offside. That was France’s only shot on target until he levelled 52 minutes later. Mbappé headed wide from Lucas Digne’s inviting cross, then over from Benzema’s lob, before crafting a glorious chance for the Real Madrid striker with a back-flick inside the area. The unmarked Benzema sliced badly wide.

The miss assumed greater significance when Fiola’s goal sparked an emotional eruption. Adam Nagy swept a crossfield ball to the left wing-back, who headed inside to Sallai and sprinted off behind Pavard.

Sallai threaded a perfect return between the France right-back and Raphaël Varane for Fiola to drive into the area and make himself a national hero by finishing inside Hugo Lloris’s right-hand post. Fiola and teammates disappeared into the crowd amid delirious celebrations.

“It was an incredible moment to celebrate with the fans,” said Uefa’s man of the match, Laszlo Kleinheisler. Rossi said: “They created an incredible environment. What we achieved with this result is something extraordinary.”

Deschamps sent on Ousmane Dembélé for Adrien Rabiot, Olivier Giroud entered the fray, but France’s anxiety intensified. Dembélé struck a post before going off with a knee injury. Pavard escaped a second booking for a needless foul on Sallai. Lloris claimed the resulting free-kick and launched his clearance deep into the Hungary half. Mbappé collected, spun away from Loïc Négo and centred low into the six-yard box where Willi Orban could only get a toe on his attempted interception. It fell perfectly for Griezmann to convert a confident finish.

There would be no repeat of the late punishment against Portugal for Hungary, however. Gulacsi saved Mbappé’s rising drive but France rarely looked like finding a second. Oliver’s final whistle signalled another eruption inside the Puskas Arena.

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