France were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Hungary on Saturday in 2020 UEFA European Championship’s Group F with the world champions forced to come from behind to salvage a point in Budapest.
Attila Fiola sparked wild scenes at Puskas Arena with the opening goal on the stroke of half-time and the hosts stayed in front beyond the hour mark before Antoine Griezmann equalized after Kylian Mbappe had stretched the Magyar defense.
Substitute Ousmane Dembele could have given the French the lead when he hit the post, but Peter Gulacsi — beaten then — was in superb form to deny Mbappe towards the end and preserve a famous Hungarian draw.
For France, it will not feel like a disastrous result but there will be some questions asked of various performances during the game with Raphael Varane and Benjamin Pavard questionable on the opening goal, Adrien Rabiot less balanced than Corentin Tolisso in midfield and Mbappe and Karim Benzema wasteful in attack.
The Paris Saint-Germain man should have done better with a first half header from a magnificent Lucas Digne cross and was later denied by a sensational Gulacsi block, but he did at least provide Griezmann’s leveler and teed up Benzema for what should have been the opener.
The Real Madrid forward was unable to capitalize on Mbappe and Griezmann’s excellent combination play and put his shot wide when he was expected to at least hit the target before fading out of the encounter and eventually being substituted after 76 minutes.
While it would be easy to claim that simply putting Olivier Giroud in for Benzema fixes that, it was not the case in Budapest and Les Bleus needed more than his increased work rate as they searched for a second and the solution appears to be in the midfield.
Rabiot, who started against Germany and again here, was put in the shade by Tolisso after the Bayern Munich man came on and if he can offer the same sort of balance in the middle against Portugal next, then he’ll likely show himself to be the better option for the tournament favorites going forward.
Digne’s inclusion at left-back over Lucas Hernandez was a welcome boost and he put in some excellent crosses going forward while the problems appear to lie across the other side of the back line where Varane and Pavard struggled collectively.
Slight alterations at the back might not make the difference against the Portuguese next week but a change in the midfield could enable France to finally tap into their attacking potential after missing their chance here.
Hungary were not undeserving of their draw, but a tuned-in French side could have won that comfortably and been lauded for some of the excellent play they produced in the first half before things started to get tense after Fiola’s goal.
Regardless of other results in the group, Deschamps’ men should still be able to finish top of group F despite this unexpected — albeit not fatal — hiccup.