BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Portugal will look to their Euro 2020 opener with Hungary to get a head start on Germany and France in a bruising Group F but the holders will have to overcome a wall of noise made by 67,000 locals to make a statement of intent.
Hungary, playing in only their second European Championship in 49 years, are rank outsiders in the tournament’s toughest group but will compensate for what they lack in star names with passion and grit.
The shiny new Puskas Arena is the only Euro 2020 stadium which will be at full capacity after local authorities agreed to exchange social distancing for a strict entry policy, requiring fans to return a negative COVID-19 test to gain access.
It means the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes face the prospect of their every touch being booed in Tuesday’s fixture by the Budapest crowd, who will not forgive any slacking off from their side.
“They (Hungary) are a very tough team and won’t let any ball go and will never give up,” said Portugal midfielder Danilo.
“We know what style of play to expect from them and we’ll be preparing well over the next few days to make sure we’re not in for a surprise.”
“We spent a season without playing in front of fans and we’re not used to it anymore but having a crowd will make the game more exciting. Hungary will be extra motivated but it’s just another problem we’ll have to deal with.”
Leaving aside the partisan crowd, Portugal are likely to face tougher tests from Germany and France and the fixture is a golden chance to clock up some early goals and points to help their push to qualify from the group.
Portugal did face a torrid time from Hungary at Euro 2016, falling behind three times before coming back to earn a 3-3 draw and scrape into the knockout stages.
Fernando Santos’ Portugal side are an even stronger proposition five years on, possessing an embarrassment of attacking riches with the likes of Diogo Jota, Andre Silva, Joao Felix and Fernandes as well as the ever-determined Ronaldo.
“This is a different group, we have many young players embarking on their first major international tournament although our ambition and hunger will be the same as in Euro 2016,” added 29-year-old Danilo.
“The previous team was very cohesive as they had been playing together for a long time while we are a young team of emerging talents but we are also a united group. We all think the same and want to win.”
Hungary, meanwhile, are a less potent side than the one which reached the knockout stage last time around, with big personalities such as Gabor Kiraly, Roland Juhasz and Zoltan Gera all moving on.
They are also without two key midfielders in bright young hope Dominik Szoboszlai and Zsolt Kalmar due to injury.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)