In a group where three of Europe’s powerhouses had met, we could not have expected less than a night of great emotions, especially with classification to the Euro’s knockout stage still wide open. But we were at least taken aback once again by Hungary, who got very close to eliminating Germany after finding the lead twice in their encounter. Whereas in the reenactment of the Euro 2016 final, Portugal showed to France and also the rest of the continent that they are still a contender for glory five years after winning the title for the first time in their history.
Only a few courageous souls would put Hungary as favoured to win a match against Germany at the Euros, especially under the circumstances of die Mannschaft having to either win or draw against the opposition to confirm their spot in the knockout stage. And the four-time World Cup winner started out with a positive approach, trying to grab a lead as quickly as they could.
But as it is often the case that would leave them exposed to proper counterplays. For proper was Adam Szalai’s opener for Hungary, as he received a great Roland Sallai cross to head the ball past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
The frustration in the face of Germany players was visible. But they had to recover composure and keep on trying to find the draw that was still a positive result for them, with Serge Gnabry and Mats Hummels getting quite to levelling the match before the end of first half.
From the beginning of second half Germany returned to their previous half form by keeping a positive approach, and once again it was Hungary who got closest to score with Sallai who hit the post in his attempt. Luckily the Germans have a Kai Havertz to make amends.
Their happiness following Havertz’s goal and substitution would not last very long. Less than two minutes after the Chelsea player found the tying goal, András Schäfer would put Hungary ahead again.
The 2-1 win was what Hungary needed to get themselves a spot in the knockout stage, and they did what they could to protect it. But they could not endure the pressure from Germany and the combination of their two subs, Timo Werner and Leon Goretzka, with the former’s attempt at goal setting up the latter’s score to get Germany in the Euro’s round of 16.
The atmosphere in Budapest was reminiscent of a full stadium in the days pre-pandemic, with loud chants from the Portuguese and French sides being heard via live feed. But on the pitch the two teams seemed as tense as two veteran boxers fighting for their last chance at winning a championship belt.
The first good chance of the match was France’s, with Paul Pogba setting up Kylian Mbappé with a great ball that demanded a superb save from Rui Patrício. The play was a wake up call to Portugal, who got a penalty chance after a Hugo Lloris foul on Danilo Pereira converted by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lloris’ foul leading to Portugal’s penalty was clear for everyone. But that was not the case for France’s chance from the spot following a soft shove from Nélson Semedo on Mbappé. Still you would not hear any complaints from Karim Benzema, who would return to scoring for Les Bleus after almost six years since his last goal for the national team.
And Benzema would not stop at a questionable penalty goal awarded to his team. A great lobbed pass from midfield by Pogba cut across Portugal’s entire defence to find the Real Madrid striker running with intent towards the box. A routine goal to put France ahead of Portugal after falling earlier in the scoresheet.
But France would not be able to keep Benzema’s “gifts” for long. Jules Koundé’s attempt at playing basketball on a football pitch with a poorly executed block on a crossing attempt from Ronaldo was not appreciated by the referee. And Ronaldo would once again step up to the spot and convert his fifth goal at the Euros this year.
While the draw was beneficial to France, they would not give up on getting a win from the encounter. They close quite close, first with a Paul Pogba long-range attempt and then via Antoine Griezmann on the rebound, with both shots saved by goalkeeper Rui Patrício to guarantee the Portuguese team a result that takes them to the Euro’s knockout phase alongside their opponents today, and Germany.