BUDAPEST: Antoine Griezmann saved a 1-1 draw for France against Hungary in Budapest as the world champions missed the opportunity to clinch a spot for Euro 2020 on Saturday, June 19.
Hungary threatened to open Group F wide when Attila Fiola gave the hosts a shock lead in the first half timeout after catching up to the French defense.
But Griezmann, winner of the Golden Boot at Euro 2016, equalized in the 66th minute as an unconvincing France avoided a first defeat in competition since June 2019.
Didier Deschamps’ side lead the group with four points, one more than defending champions Portugal, who will face Germany in Munich later. Hungary got their first point and the Germans are down after losing to France in their opener.
France remain in Budapest for their final game against Portugal, while Hungary travel to Munich to face Germany, still hoping to advance to the knockout stage for a second consecutive tournament.
Struggling with sweltering temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and a crowd approaching 60,000 at Puskas Arena, the only Euro 2020 venue without capacity restrictions due to Covid-19, France has controlled much of the first half.
Having lived up to their expectations as tournament favorites in a 1-0 win over Germany, France dominated Hungary from the start, creating plenty of chances against a side that held out for 84 minutes before losing 3-0 to Portugal.
Peter Gulacsi took hold of Karim Benzema’s weak training, reacting strongly to prevent Griezmann’s follow-up, despite the Barcelona star being flagged for offside.
Lucas Digne, brought to Lucas Hernandez’s side as the only change made by France coach Deschamps, then chose an unmarked Kylian Mbappe whose cutting head barely flashed.
Hungary lost captain Adam Szalai to injury midway through the first half, and the hosts lived dangerously as Benzema slashed a superb shot from Mbappe before the Paris Saint-Germain forward moved away – even.
France captain Hugo Lloris had warned of overconfidence against a team expected to finish last in the group, and the Blues were punished for a brief lapse of time just before halftime.
Fiola recovered the cross ball from Adam Nagy and played a one-two with Roland Sallai, passing Benjamin Pavard and pushing Raphael Varane past Lloris at his near post.
Deschamps had waited until the 89th minute before making a substitution in the opener against Germany, but Ousmane Dembele’s introduction for Adrien Rabiot on time almost equaled immediately as the Barcelona striker rocked the post.
France equalized when a long kick from Lloris flew over Nagy’s head, Mbappe clinging to it in front of Paris-born Hungarian Loïc Nego.
His ball through the goal was deflected onto Griezmann’s path by Willi Orban, allowing the striker to slam his seventh European Championship goal.
Gulacsi made a nice save to fend off a fierce shot from Mbappe as France pressed for a win that would have taken them to the knockout stage. Instead, they have to wait for Wednesday’s clash with Portugal.