France needed a second-half equalizer from Antoine Griezmann to avoid the biggest upset of the tournament.
Hungary, playing in front of a raucous crowd yet again at the European Championship, held the World Cup champions to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
After Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema wasted chances, Griezmann scored in the 66th minute to dampen the spirit of a crowd which gave Hungary unwavering support throughout the Group F match.
It was Griezmann’s 38th goal for France, moving him three behind third-place Michel Platini on the national team’s scoring list, and he did a little celebratory dance in front of the blue-shirted fans.
The 67,215-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest is the only stadium at Euro 2020 to allow full crowds, and it produced an atmosphere to remember.
“It’s the first time with a full stadium, it’s different from what you are used to,” Griezmann said. “You can’t hear anything. We couldn’t even hear each other on the field. But it’s a great pleasure to play in front of fans again.”
Hungary’s fans went wild when Attila Fiola gave the home team the lead.
Latching onto the ball after Roland Sallai won a header down the left flank, Fiola burst into the penalty area and held off defender Raphael Varane before clipping the ball into the bottom corner.
Some flares were lit and Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi had to remove paper thrown from the stands which landed in his penalty area.
Mbappe and Benzema both wasted chances before Hungary’s goal.
“We should have been in front. It’s not good enough given what we expected, but that’s soccer,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “They scored with their only chance. Considering the context, we’ll take the point.”
Given the quality of their opponents, Hungary’s draw was more like a victory and Gulacsi pumped his fists as the crowd gave the players a massive ovation.
“Today we managed to earn some glory,” Hungary coach Marco Rossi said through a translator. “Tomorrow life will go on as usual.”
The Hungarian players lined up in front of their home fans behind one goal after the match and stood with their hands on their hearts as the crowd sang.
“The Hungarian fans are unmatched. We have unique fans,” Rossi said. “That’s why we work so hard to please them.”
Many of the fans waved the green-white-and-red national flag, while others were clad in black T-shirts with Magyaroszag (Hungary) written on them. Still others stood bare-chested behind one of the goals in bright afternoon sunshine.
The French team did have some of their own fans, however, about 5,700 of them, according to UEFA.
The mood became intimidating when some sections of the crowd jeered the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. But France had enough chances to quiet them down in the first half.
The unmarked Mbappe headed wide from left back Lucas Digne’s cross in the 18th. Benzema then fluffed a straightforward chance when he ran onto Mbappe’s clever flick behind and sent a shot wide near the penalty spot.
Benzema has still not scored in the competition, after failing at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. He was left out of Euro 2016.
“As a forward, he knows what people expect from him,” Deschamps said. “But the main thing is that he stays confident and that I keep believing in him.”
Mbappe has not scored at this tournament. Both had a goal ruled out for offside in the 1-0 over against Germany on Tuesday.
The draw gives Hungary one point in the group ahead of Wednesday’s match against Germany in Munich. Two-time champion France has four points and will stay in Budapest to face defending champion Portugal.
“It’s not as if we were going to crush everyone,” Deschamps said. “We still hold the cards. If we win then we’ll finish first.”
Deschamps may have an injury concern for that game.
Substitute Ousmane Dembele, who hit the post moments after coming on as second-half substitute, went off near the end of the game after appearing to hurt his knee.
“I hope it’s only a minor injury,” Deschamps said. “We’ll know more in the next few days.”