France will aim to maintain their perfect start to Euro 2020 when they make the long journey to Budapest to face off against Hungary on Saturday in Group F.
The hosts fell victim to a 3-0 defeat to a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal during their first game, while France started as they mean to go on with a 1-0 success over Germany.
The almost alien sight of a full arena of spectators was a breath of fresh air as Hungary welcomed Portugal to the Puskas Arena on Tuesday, and the reigning champions failed to make their dominance count until a seven-minute flurry in the dying embers of the match.
After substitute Szabolcs Schon had a goal ruled out for offside, Portugal drew first blood in the 84th minute as Raphael Guerreiro’s effort trickled past Peter Gulacsi, and the man for the international stage Ronaldo would add a further two strikes to break Michel Platini’s European Championship goalscoring record.
Hungary manager Marco Rossi took the blame on the day after making in-game alterations which he felt did not pay off, but the 56-year-old witnessed his determined outfit keep Ronaldo and co at bay for 84 minutes on the day, and that is certainly something to be applauded.
Occupying a spot in the group of death with France, Germany and Portugal was always expected to end in dismay for Hungary – whose 11-game unbeaten streak across all competitions was ended at the hands of Portugal – but Rossi’s men have proven that they will not go down waving the white flag.
A shock result against 2014 World Cup winners Germany – who also lost their opening game – could yet spell a remarkable third-placed finish for 37th-ranked Hungary, who were eliminated by Belgium in the last-16 stage five years ago, but not many will be placing bets on Rossi’s men getting one over the reigning world champions.
Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe will not be making friends with the officials anytime soon after both strikers had goals disallowed versus Germany on matchday one, but Didier Deschamps’s men nevertheless managed to sink Die Mannschaft five years after dumping them out of the Euro 2016 semi-finals.
With 20 minutes on the clock, veteran defender Mats Hummels inadvertently turned Lucas Hernandez’s cross into his own net for the game’s only goal, as France made the ideal start to their group of death campaign en route to an expected top-two finish in the group.
Les Bleus will renew hostilities with their 2016 final opponents Portugal next Wednesday and will be desperate to enact revenge on Fernando Santos’s men, so sweeping aside a normally resilient Hungary outfit would be the perfect tonic for the early favourites, who have now won five in a row with five clean sheets to boot.
Roberto Mancini’s well-drilled Italy outfit are the only nation in Europe to boast more clean sheets than France since the turn of the year, and another shut-out on Hungarian soil would see Les Bleus register six successive clean sheets for the first time since 2007 – when they were under the tutelage of the ever-controversial Raymond Domenech.
Furthermore, France head into Saturday’s game on a five-match winning streak against Hungary – who have not prevailed over Les Bleus since 1976 – and goals from Djibril Cisse and Florent Malouda saw France win 2-1 the last time these sides met in a 2005 friendly.
Hungary European Championship form:
Hungary form (all competitions):
France European Championship form:
France form (all competitions):