Hungary and Portugal opened their respective Euro campaigns against each other on Tuesday at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest, in a game which saw the Portuguese secure three absolutely vital points in Group F, widely considered the ‘group of death’. All three goals came at the very end; a deflected shot from Raphael Guerreiro found its way past Peter Gulacsi in the 84th minute, a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty committed by Willi Orban on Rafa Silva two minutes later, and a wonderful stoppage-time combination which saw Rafa Silva set Ronaldo up and the Juventus superstar go around Gulacsi to slot home.
In the other game of the day in the group, France beat Germany by 1-0 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, courtesy of an own goal from Mats Hummels.
Hungary give good account
Most people who saw this game agree that Hungary played really well and did not deserve the unflattering final scoreline. It took Portugal, as loaded with stars as they are, almost 84 minutes to break their resolution and extremely organized approach at the back. It cannot be questioned that Marco Rossi put together a good team, one not likely to prove a pushover for any opponent, neither for the reigning world champions France, nor the previous ones, Germany.
Orban may have had his performance tarnished by the deflection for the first goal and the penalty committed, but he played extremely well right up to the end and the two moments can comfortably be go down as unlucky, more than anything else.
Hungary fought well all over the pitch, continuously encouraged by the loud support coming from the stands of their packed stadium. Upfront, captain Adam Szalai constantly gave the likes of Pepe and Ruben Dias work to do, supported by the notable talent of Roland Sallai.
Gergo Lovrencsics and Attila Fiola covered the flanks well. The trio of Laszlo Kleinheisler, Adam Nagy and Andras Schafer worked relentlessly in the middle of the park, mostly providing protection for the back three of Endre Botka, Orban and Attila Szalai. Throw in a number of fine saves from the RB Leipzig goalkeeper, and it was overall a very good performance from the underdogs of the group.
They even scored what would have been the first goal of the game, had it not been rightly ruled out for offside.
It certainly wasn’t a bad game from Portugal, far from it. You can only beat what’s put in front of you, and Fernando Santos’ men certainly did that, even if the scoreline does exaggerate the image of their domination over the contest. They did hold the ball a lot more, they did produce more shots, both on and off target, but they often found the doors barring their way to Gulacsi firmly shut.
Hungary did not attack much. It mostly consisted of long balls towards Szalai, set-pieces and a couple of potentially dangerous counterattacks, and the situation made it easier for Portugal to focus their efforts on finding a breakthrough, which they eventually did. However, things are bound to look much different when they face France and Germany, both capable of repeatedly causing defences harm.
In the end, Portugal will be happy with the result and the three points without which their chances of progressing to the knockout phase would’ve been diminished greatly. But Santos isn’t very likely to be pleased with the overall performance and the fact that the match could easily have ended differently.
The incredible Ronaldo
On the other hand, there is a man in the Portuguese ranks who can always be counted on to score goals, and that can be extremely important when the team isn’t performing to the standards expected.
A born winner, a man destined to break football records, one of the two greatest players the game has had in the last 15 years. The man who now tops the all-time goalscorers’ list when it comes to European Championships. Some love him, some don’t; some dislike him intensely, but none can sensibly dispute his greatness. Booing from the stands could distinctly be heard whenever the ball was at his feet. Some of his teammates didn’t exactly do as he would’ve liked on several occasions in the match, and he wasn’t shy of making his feelings known. But in the end, he had the last laugh.
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