Hungary – France: Hungary Trump The Odds To Contain World Champions (1-1)
France came into this game looking to book their place in the Round of 16 with a win. But Hungary had other ideas. Sitting in a 5-3-2 block, they shackled the favorites, holding out against waves of pressure to clinch a superb result.
Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.
Hungary are the rank outsiders in this group. Missing the youthful star Dominik Szoboszlai due to injury, the team’s odds have stacked up against them all the more. However, their 0-3 loss to Portugal masked a disciplined display, as they kept their guests at bay for over eighty minutes. Now the home team looked to bounce back from that loss by finding a result that would keep their campaign alive.
On the other hand, France are the standard-bearer at EURO 2020, and the Group of Death offers an ample chance for the side to live up to their lofty reputation. In a clash of the titans with Germany, a 1-0 win gave the team the upper hand on a key rival. Now facing an altogether different task, a convincing win here could lay down a marker of intent while booking a place in the knockout stages.
Hungary manager Marco Rossi set up his players in their usual 5-3-2 shape. He made just one change to the starting eleven that played last time out against Portugal. The alteration saw Gergő Lovrencsics drop to the bench as Loïc Négo started the game at right wing-back.
French manager Didier Deschamps went for a 4-3-3 setup. He, too, only brought one new player into his side after the opening round of group fixtures. The tweak was made at left back, where Lucas Hernández made way for Lucas Digne, a more offensive profile.
Hungary’s resolute strategy
Stifling Portugal for most of their opening game of EURO 2020, the question would be if Hungary would take on a similar strategy this time around. This course of action proved to be the case as Rossi set up his men in their main 5-3-2 shape off the ball. As was the case last time out, the home team also dropped off into their half of the field to defend more compactly.
From here, several mechanisms arose in the defensive block. In terms of the backline, the five defenders operated as a pendulating chain. Thus, the wing-backs pushed out at speed to close down the play out wide in the midfield. In turn, the three in the middle of the park focused less on stopping France from progressing the play into the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. through the flanks.
The midfielders, along with the front two, then formed a compact block of five that looked to keep the visitors out of the center. If passes did breach the midfield to reach a white and blue shirt between the lines, a central defender usually jumped out the backline to stop the man from facing Hungary’s goal.
France dominate the play
As was the case against Germany, France did not set up in a 4-4-2 diamond system. Rather, they went for a 4-3-3 shape on the ball. Here, Antoine Griezmann played on the right of the front three, Karim Benzema through the middle, and Kylian Mbappé off the left.
Benjamin Pavard began deep on the right, mainly taking part in the buildup phase. In turn, Griezmann then held the width on the flank in the opening stages of the game. On the other hand, Mbappé rarely played as a winger off the left, often moving into the halfspace. If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. If the right wing-back shifted out to shut down the play, he could slide over to that side of the field and make runs into depth.
As the match went on, the movement patterns became less static. Paul Pogba began to give width at times by evading to the sideline, where he used his physique and technique to keep control of the ball. Griezmann would then roam between the lines, drifting across the pitch to support the transition into the final third.
France’s 4-3-3 offensive structure and movements against Hungary’s 5-3-2 block.
A stunning scoreline
From here, the guests did not manage to crack the heart of Hungary’s defense at ease. But if the players did find the front three between the lines, it presented a serious issue. As one of the attackers turned forward, the other two would make runs to tie up the back five and combine intricately at high speed.
Several chances arose through these means. In the 14th minute, Mbappé spun forward and slid in Benzema to his right while Griezmann drew markers away. The right winger followed in Benzema’s effort, only to miss a presentable rebound. Mbappé danced away from markers to blaze wide of the left post in the 33rd minute, while Benzema struck a volley wide of the mark moments earlier.
14th minute: Presnel Kimpembe breaks the lines to find Mbappé. Griezmann attacks the space in behind and Benzema pivots right to tee up the shot.
France struggled to crack this deep block, but worse was to come. In injury time, Ádám Nagy was in the right halfspace, pinging a switch of play out to Attila Fiola. Roland Sollai then beat Raphaël Varane to the ball, flicking it back into his teammate’s path. The wing-back raced into the box, firing home to put his team in the lead.
A shift in focus
Just before the hour mark, Deschamps made a substitution. Watching his men probe to no avail, the manager took off Rabiot. Ousmané Dembélé then came on in his place, then leading to a change of shape. They now lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system, where the substitute played on the right of the three behind Benzema, Griezmann operated as a ten, and Mbappé stayed out on the left. Pogba then acted as the second member of the double pivot off the ball with Kanté.
A little under two minutes later and the winger had nearly paid back the faith of his manager. From a throw in deep on the left, the ball worked its way to the center circle. Here, Griezmann had roamed into space, setting away Dembélé to his right. His teammate then drove to the box, chopping back with his left foot to the outside before letting off a fierce shot with his right. His strike crushed the post, narrowly letting Hungary off the hook.
The complement of Mbappé and Dembélé on each flank pointed to a clear offensive focus. The high tempo dribbling of the latter sparked a notable change in tempo in the final third when looking for a decisive breakthrough. From out wide, Dembélé, chiefly, would either carry the ball toward the byline and look for crosses to bridge the path to goal or finish off attacks on his own.
France go again
Though these one on one duels did not pry Hungary’s stubborn rearguard open, a direct approach did see France draw level. In the 65th minute, Sollai drew a foul from Pavard, winning his side a free kick. He then stepped up to take the set-piece but overhit his strike, finding the palms of Lloris.
Alert to the whereabouts of his teammates, the goalkeeper punted a long ball downfield. The two wingers had now ended up in a two on two in Hungary’s half. What’s more, the loop on the ball caught Nagy and Négo pedaling backward, allowing Mbappé to hare down on goal and make the most of the situation. He then cut a strike across the box, looking for Benzema. Orbán prodded the cross away, but Griezmann was there for the rebound, and he made no mistake.
With a quarter of an hour on the clock, Deschamps looked to force the issue and made a double substitution. Corentin Tolisso came on for Pogba, playing to the left of Kanté in the midfield. Through the middle, Oliver Giroud replaced Benzema. Mbappé looked to work off the striker, drawing a save from Péter Gulácsi in the 82nd minute. France continued to push, but Hungary held on, keeping the visitors out till the final whistle.
Hungary got the reward that they were due for their display against Portugal this time around. Though the home team rode luck at points, their disciplined 5-3-2 block has stood the test of time to make up for Rossi’s men being the weakest side in the group on paper. Germany are warming up as their games go on, but do not discount the chance of an upset by the end of the group stage fixtures.
On the other hand, France failed to put destiny in their hands, leaving the stakes high going into their last game of the group. In contrast to their outstanding stability off the ball against Germany, the reigning world champions flattered to deceive against a deep block. Now, in their bid to reach the Round of 16, a crunch tie with Portugal awaits.
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