BUDAPEST, June 19: Antoine Greizmann rescued a point for world champions France as they came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with hosts Hungary in Group F and prevent a massive upset in front of a full house at the Puskas Arena on Saturday.
Attila Fiola had given the hosts a dream half-time lead, after France missed a bevy of early chances.
But Greizmann equalised in the 66th minute to move France onto four points while Hungary kept up their slim hopes, on one point, in a group where they had been given little chance with heavyweights Germany and Portugal also in the mix.
A heaving, 65,000-strong, mainly Hungarian crowd, the likes of which has not been seen at football since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, willed their side to a share of the points in the summer sun even if they were largely outplayed.
Greizmann finished with a powerful shot but at the end of an uncharacteristic move from the French, who for all their midfield guile and panache needed a Route One kick upfield from their goalkeeper to fashion their equaliser.
The French had three gilt-edged chances in the first half which their much-vaunted attack would have been expected to finish.
Peter Gulasci made a double save from Karim Benzema and Griezmann inside the opening quarter-hour and then watched in relief as Kylian Mbappe headed over the top from metres out after Benzema had teed him up in the 17th minute.
It looked a matter of time before Les Bleus would break the deadlock but when Mbappe returned the favour to Benzema just after the half hour mark, he contrived to hit a disappointing shot wide when it seemed easier to score.
Their profligacy was then punished at the end of the half as wingback Fiola collected a cross-field pass from Adam Nagy, played a one-two with Roland Sallai and outpaced the French defence to coolly side-foot home a goal met with a rapturous response from the ecstatic crowd.
Little had gone for Hungary up to that point, losing skipper Adam Szalai to injury in the first half.
It took until the 66th minute for the equaliser. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kicked the ball down the middle from his penalty box, which the Hungarian defence let bounce for Mbappe to reach first with his frightening pace. His square ball was barely intercepted by Willi Orban, whose effort to clear only contrived to tee up a close-in finish for Griezmann.
Hungary next face Germany in Munich on Wednesday while Portugal and France play in Budapest at the same time.
Lacklustre England held as Scotland make their point
England missed a chance to book their place in the last 16 at Euro 2020 as Scotland kept their own hopes alive with a well deserved 0-0 draw on Friday.
Gareth Southgate’s side would have been guaranteed to advance from Group D with a win over their old rivals at Wembley.
But lethargic England managed just one shot on target and Scotland’s combative display could easily have earned all three points.
Despite a flop that saw them booed off at full-time, England have four points and will be certain of qualifying if they avoid defeat by the Czech Republic in their last group game on Tuesday.
Scotland, in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, looked far more composed than in their opening 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic.
They remain in with a chance of going through if they win their final match against Croatia.
Ponderous England’s lack of cutting edge was a major issue for Southgate, who responded to Harry Kane’s second successive lacklustre effort by hauling off his captain after 75 minutes.
There had been questions raised about Kane after he failed to make an impact in England’s 1-0 win against Croatia on Sunday.
Kane admitted he was not undroppable this week and Southgate has a difficult decision to make over the Tottenham striker, who finished as the Premier League’s top scorer this term but has suddenly lost his touch.
With an average age of 25 years and 31 days, England’s starting line-up was their youngest ever in a major tournament match and as one of the few senior players, Kane hardly led by example.
Meeting in a major tournament for the first time since England’s win at Euro 96, this was a redemptive performance for Scotland, whose fans serenaded their team at full-time.
It was the 115th clash between England and Scotland, an ancient rivalry that dates back to 1872 on the pitch and centuries earlier off it.
The Tartan Army were officially limited to 2,500 supporters inside Wembley, but the coronavirus-restricted 22,500 capacity included hundreds more Scots who secured tickets in other areas of the stadium.
It made for a vibrant atmosphere, with the Scottish national anthem loudly jeered by England fans and “God Save the Queen” given the same treatment from the visitors.
John Stones should have raised the roof early on when the unmarked England defender met Mason Mount’s corner with a close-range header that crashed against the post.
But England were unable to make the most of their early flurry and Scotland’s confidence began to soar as the hosts grew more listless.
Kieran Tierney, back after missing the opening game with a calf strain, showed Scotland’s ambition when the defender advanced for a long-range volley that looped wide.
Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour, making his first Scotland start, was dictating the tempo with a vibrant display in midfield.
The Scots carved open England’s defence with surgical precision moments later as Tierney surged onto Andrew Robertson’s pass.
Tierney’s cross picked out Stephen O’Donnell beyond the far post and his stinging volley forced a fine save from Jordan Pickford, with Che Adams heading wide of the empty net from the rebound.
For the second successive game, England had produced a plodding first-half performance.
Southgate’s men took just three minutes of the second half to finally test David Marshall as the Scotland keeper sprawled to his right to save Mount’s powerful strike.
Kane teed up Reece James, selected instead of Kyle Walker at right-back, but he lashed narrowly over from the edge of the area.
Scotland, competing ferociously and playing with intelligence, remained a major threat and Lyndon Dykes’ hooked shot had to be headed off the line by James.
In a bid to inject more creativity into England’s display, Southgate sent on Jack Grealish for the subdued Phil Foden and replaced Kane with Marcus Rashford.
Yet when England’s chance arrived, it felt to Luke Shaw and the defender screwed wide from a tight angle. (Reuters/AFP)