Hungary v Portugal Match Analysis

All the talk before this game centred around Portugal's talismanic frontman Cristiano Ronaldo, who has so far struggled to cope with having the expectations of an entire nation resting on his broad, gym-sculpted shoulders. Only today, he grabbed a reporter's microphone and threw it into a lake, although, going by the wayward finishing he has so far displayed in this tournament, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that he was actually trying to throw the mic somewhere else. Wayward finishing aside, he has been by far Portugal's best player so far. Other attacking talents, such as Nani and Quaresma, have drifted in and out of the two games they have played, and neither the midfield or defence have covered themselves in any glory. If only Portugal had a player along the lines of N'Golo Kanté at the heart of midfield they would look like a much more balanced team. Alas, this is not the case, so for the third consecutive game Portugal are going into a game hoping that their attacking prowess will be enough to overpower seemingly weaker opposition.

And what of the opposition? Hungary have gone about their business with a quiet confidence, happy to let the likes of Iceland and Northern Ireland take the headlines for punching above their weight. Their coach, Bernd Storck, has imbued the team with a typically German combination of hard work and efficiency that belies their technical limitations. One weak link is the goalkeeper, Gabor Kiraly, who doesn't look comfortable dealing with high balls, although, in his tracksuit bottoms, he does look quite comfy at all other times.

The game started with Portugal having most of the possession, moving the ball through midfield quite quickly. A very organised Hungarian back four did well to prevent any of the Portuguese strikers having a clear shot on goal. When Hungary won the ball back they weren't afraid to go forward, with the number nine, Szalai, being the obvious target for long range passes.

After a fairly uneventful 17 minutes, Hungary won a corner which was cleared, but only as far as Zoltan Gera who teed up a magnificent left foot strike, low into the bottom corner of Rui Patricio's goal.

After this, I think everybody watching the game expected to see Portugal move through the gears and pin Hungary back into their own 18 yard area, however this failed to materialise. But for a poor shot, straight at the keeper on 23 minutes from Akos Elek after a great run by Szalai, Hungary would've been two goals up before Portugal had got going.

Ronaldo had a chance to draw his team level, when a poor challenge on Gomes resulted in a free kick from 35 yards. He struck the ball well, however Kiraly was equal to the task, and pushed the ball wide. The rest of the first half was played mostly in the Hungarian half of the field, with Portugal unable to find any space to play through. A combination of poor passing and robust defending looked like preventing Portugal from finding a way through until Ronaldo threaded a wonderful ball to Nani inside the penalty box, whose shot left the keeper with no chance.

1-1 and Portugal were back in the game, and back in the tournament.

Hungary went back in front on 46 minutes after a wicked deflection on a Dzudzsak free-kick completely wrong footed the keeper. Once more Portugal were staring at the exit door.

A quick response was badly needed, and it was predictably provided by Ronaldo. A cross by Mario from the right hand side was met by Ronaldo, his movement across the defender was excellent, and a cheeky finish with the heel of his boot brought the travelling Portuguese fans to life.

Unbelievably, Dzudzsak put Hungary back in front after another free kick was blocked by the wall, the Hungarian number 7 picked up the loose ball, drove into the box and blasted it into the net.

3-2, with only 54 minutes on the clock. Could Portugal come back from the dead for a third time in this crazy game?

From that point on, the shape of the game disintegrated completely. Portugal had to push forward at every opportunity, with Hungary constantly snapping at their heels. After 61 minutes Portugal equalised again through Ronaldo. A whipped cross from the left hand side was met with a prodigious leap, the powerful header once again leaving Kiraly with no chance.

3-3, and no way of telling what the final score might be. A draw should be good enough to see Portugal through, but sitting back and hoping to keep Hungary at bay was too risky, so they kept on attacking, and Hungary kept on breaking downfield, causing panic amongst the Portuguese section of the crowd.

In the last 20 minutes of the game  Hungary visibly began to tire, with the massive physical effort put in by every player inevitably having an effect. This, coupled with Portugal's intelligent substitutions made for a tense end to a thrilling encounter. Sanchez and Quaresma roamed menacingly around in the Hungarian half, stretching the defence and creating space for Ronaldo, who seemed determined to drag his team singlehandedly through to the knockout stages.

3-3 was the final score in what I believe has been the best game of the tournament so far. On balance, it was probably the right result, although it could have gone either way. Having said that, it would've been cruel if Hungary had lost, as their team spirit and monumental work-rate deserved a reward. And what a reward: top of the group, from where they can now relax with a beer in front of the TV and find out who they'll be battling it out with in Toulouse next week for a place in the quarter finals.

After 30 years in the football wilderness, with long distant memories of legends from a bygone era still haunting the dressing room, Hungary once more have a team to be proud of.

Back to run the show, it's the Return of the Mag.


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