What happens when a world-class team takes on a team depending on heart, tenacity, home support, and grit? Hungary vs Portugal in Euro Cup 2021 was a good example.
Within the first few minutes, it became clear that Portugal wanted to play football, Hungary wanted to play football with a bit of rugby once in a while. Cue ‘robust’ challenges and hoofing the ball forward whenever possible. But then, one could hardly blame them. Portugal have Ronaldo, Bernado Silva, Diogo Jota, Ruben Dias, Nelson Semedo, and Pepe.
Hungary had home support.
Portugal had better chances, better passing, and spent most of the first half in the Hungarian half. Cristiano Ronaldo should have scored at least once in the first half, especially just before halftime, when he hit the ball into the stands from just six yards. Yet, at least the first half showed that tenacity, frequent fouls, no interest in playing free-flowing football and parking the bus can get you the desired results. The Hungarians, at half-time, could claim a moral victory. Now, the second half awaited.
Second Half: Same as first half, but a cruel 10 minutes
The second half started much the same way: Portugal being utterly dominant and Hungary being, well, Hungary. Within ten minutes of the second half, the frustration of Portuguese players’ faces became visible. The challenges continued to fly. But for all their anti-football, Hungary gave little space to the likes of Ronaldo, Jota and Silva. The Hungarian back 4 was mostly a back 6-8 most of the times, but they couldn’t care less. The home crowd also, to their credit, kept the noise at maximum levels. This match mirrored the Spain vs Sweden match in that the Spanish, just like Portugal, did everything but score. However, unlike the Hungarians, the Swedish did play much better football. Not that the Hungarians cared. With ten minutes to go, Hungary thought they had scored the winning goal only to be denied by the linesman, who deemed it offside. And rightly so. But football, eh?
A few minutes later, heartbreak for thousands of Hungary fans when left-back Rafael Guerrero found himself plenty of space, but the shot took a wicked deflection. There was nothing the Hungary keeper to go. A minute later, Orban committed a silly foul on substitute Rafael Silva, and within two minutes, Hungary went from earning a famous draw to losing 2-0. And Ronaldo had his customary celebration. Two minutes into the injury time, Ronaldo weaved through the tired Hungarian defence to score a typical Ronaldo goal. After defending for 80 minutes, the Hungarians crumbled.
In the end, one could argue, football won. The Hungarians would disagree, of course.
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