UEFA Euro 2020

Portugal offer glimpse of full potential with peculiar Hungary performance

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Portugal left it late to beat a stubborn Hungary side
Portugal left it late to beat a stubborn Hungary side / Attila Kisebenedek - Pool/Getty Images

When Portugal's lineup for their Euro 2020 opener against Hungary was revealed it was difficult not to salivate.

A 38-year-old Pepe aside, there were few, if any, weak links. In defence they could name the best defender in Europe over the past nine months, Ruben Dias, and out wide the thrust of Raphaël Guerreiro and Nelson Semedo - deputising for the absent Joao Cancelo - also looked promising.

Their midfield did not appear half bad either with the assured pair of Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho providing a solid base for Bruno Fernandes to feed Portugal's delicious front three. That forward line included the spritely pairing of Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva alongside the best European footballer of all-time, Cristiano Ronaldo.

With a starting XI this menacing the eventual 3-0 scoreline did not come as much of a surprise. However, this did not tell the whole story of Portugal's opening Euro 2020 bout.

A brief glimpse at the scoresheet reveals that all of A Seleção's goals came within the final ten minutes of the contest, including stoppage time. This was not an inevitable result of 80+ minutes of pressure, though.

Prior to their late flurry, Portugal registered just eight shots. Hungary had just three less than that and also had a goal ruled out for offside.

Portugal's approach play was pretty stodgy throughout. Carvalho and Danilo might have afforded them a near impenetrable layer of protection, but their similarities meant their side lacked creativity in midfield.

Neither Fernandes nor Bernardo - both Premier League stars in their own right - could unlock Hungary's stubborn back five either. Meanwhile, although both full-backs did their best to create overloads, they were largely kept at arm's length thanks to some excellent covering from their opposing wing-backs.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo scored twice after his team were already ahead / Alex Pantling/Getty Images

In the end, it took two deflections - one in the build-up and one to divert Guerreiro's shot past Peter Gulacsi - to put Portugal in front. Soon after, with Hungary reeling for this double dose of poor fortune, Willi Orban hauled Rafa Silva down inside the box. Ronaldo then made up for his underwhelming return to the grandest stage by smashing home, becoming the European Championships' all-time leading scorer in the process.

After these two goals Portugal finally gave us a mouthwatering glimpse of how good they can be at their full potential. With Hungary reduced to statues, Fernandes and Ronaldo carved them open with a free-flowing move which the latter duly tucked home.

It was one of the only attacks worthy of a team of Portugal's billing. They will be hoping that the opening 80 minutes against Hungary was merely a warm-up for the wave of beautiful football to come in the rest of the tournament.