We almost found Portugal but we haven’t really found the Blues yet. Four days after their Hungarian poor performance (1-1) in the same Puskas Arena, the France team did not show, Wednesday, June 23, its most attractive face in the third and last match of the group stage .
Held in check by the Portuguese clearly reinvigorated compared to their beginning of competition, the teammates of Hugo Lloris however assured the essential, the first place of group F. And they had the happiness to attend a release: that of their center forward Karim Benzema, finally scorer – even double scorer.
In the muggy and stifling heat of Budapest, the first quarter of an hour offered little opportunity to get excited. The only thrill was offered to the 11e minute of play by the beating of butterfly wings 560 km away. In Munich, when Hungary opened the scoring against the Germans, a continuous clamor rose from the Magyar public present at the Puskas Arena. Rebelote at the 68e minute, when the Hungarians regain the advantage in Bavaria. Extraordinary and surreal atmosphere, caused by a match that is not the one that takes place under the eyes of spectators in a trance.
Despite their relative apathy, the French managed to shoot first. A bright opening by Paul Pogba allows Kylian Mbappé to appear alone in front of goalkeeper Rui Patricio who deflects the Parisian’s strike (16e). The possession of the ball is balanced, the two teams rather cautious.
A French defensive error will give the advantage to the Portuguese, much more comfortable with the contribution of veteran Moutinho and Lille’s Renato Sanches in midfield. On a free kick obtained by the latter, and fired by Moutinho, Lloris touches the ball in extremis with his fist but violently hits Danilo’s head. The Spanish referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz does not hesitate to whistle the penalty and warns the French captain with a yellow card. He is transformed without much suspense by Cristiano Ronaldo (1-0, 27e), author of his 13e goal in five editions of the Euro.
France is led for the second game in a row. Not enough to satisfy the demanding Didier Deschamps. The Blues even show nervousness and some annoyance. They collect two other warnings in four minutes: Lucas Hernandez (35e) and Antoine Griezmann (39e).
It is ultimately a very generous decision of the refereeing body that brings the Blues back to the match. Mbappé gets a penalty in stoppage time in light contact with defender Nelson Semedo. Six years after his last international goal, Karim Benzema finally unlocks his counter (1-1, 45e+2). It was well worth a handshake from his ex-Madrid teammate Ronaldo.
At this level, goals often go in pairs. Back from the locker room, Pogba sends a new deep pass, Benzema takes Ruben Dias speed and deceives Patricio with a cross shot. First signaled offside, he can finally exult thanks to the intervention of the VAR, which, for once, allows the validation of a goal instead of canceling one for trifles (47e, 2-1). The last double from the center forward in the blue jersey dates back to October 8, 2015 in Nice against Armenia.
Ronaldo savior of the nation
And on the Portuguese side, Ronaldo is not left out and is the savior of the nation. A costume that perfectly suits the five-fold Golden Ball. At the hour of play, his center behind is countered by hand by Jules Koundé, tenured to the right of the defense in place of Benjamin Pavard. CR7 leaves no one the opportunity to deprive him of a double and a 14e achievement during a Euro (60e, 2-2). With 109 goals for the Seleçao, the insatiable Madeiran even equaled the record for national goals of Iranian Ali Daei.
This draw satisfies both parties. The France team is first, Portugal is then still second in the group. But it is the Habs who come close to playing a nasty trick on the players of coach Fernando Santos. At the 67e minute, Pogba, inevitably better in big games, forces Rui Patricio to a high class parade. Pushed back by the post, the ball fell to Griezmann who made the last Lusitanian rampart shine.
The two rivals observe each other more than they decide to indulge. And the euphoria subsides when the news of the German equalizer reaches the ears of many local spectators. At the end of this incredible crossover from a distance, Portugal returned to third, Hungary was eliminated, Germany took second place while France clung to first.
Winners of just one of their first three matches, the French world champions will have to step up to keep all their promises. From Monday June 28 in Bucharest, they will face Switzerland in the round of 16 of the competition. Before perhaps a reunion in the quarterfinals with Croatia – finalist of the last World Cup – which will have to get rid of an invigorated Spain.
Our selection of articles on Euro 2021