As I mentioned yesterday, the last few days of European Championship action has slightly fallen below expectations.
What we needed was a spectacle on Saturday; a real showcase of the talent that Group F holds.
Boy, did we get it.
In arguably the most memorable day at the championships so far, we had 10 goals between three matches, a result that stunned millions and an event that probably shocked even more; Álvaro Morata actually finding the net.
So, to dissect what went down on Saturday, we’ll start at the beginning.
Our host for Hungary v France was Budapest, a city again displaying the joy of government-endorsed socialising, with locals gathering in their masses to roar on their mighty Magyars.
So they might; the Hungarians didn’t have great hope in this group containing three far mightier powers, but in the noblest of causes, their people turned out in their droves.
After heartbreak at the hands of the Portuguese a few days earlier, the task for Marco Rossi’s men would be the same – to harass, to hinder, to pinch any chances on the counter-attack.
For a side that, like England and Italy, prefers to play on the counter themselves, Didier Deschamps’ side knew they had to bring their finest pair of nutcrackers here, rather than having their opponents play into their hands.
Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé both had fine first-half chances, particularly in the Real Madrid striker’s case, but neither could convert.
Despite the loss of captain Ádám Szalai – whose fascinating career is a tale for another day – to an injury midway through the half, the Hungarians carried on their defensive task, and did much more in added time.
With the French ready for the interval, a simple one-two between left wing-back Attila Fiola and striker Roland Sallai drew Raphael Varane and Benjamin Pavard in, and Fiola was away.
Holding off the onrushing defenders, Fiola struck beautifully with his right foot past Hugo Lloris to break the deadlock, prompting utter bedlam on the pitch, and in the stands.
France were sharp again after the break, but Hungary responded with even more confidence, and were at the stage of ole-ing at the hour mark.
Undoubtedly, they would tire after two straight games of incredible effort in searing summer heat.
Ousmane Dembele entered for the visitors and struck the post a matter of minutes after coming on, changing the tune in the arena.
It was still an arrow through the heart when Lloris pumped a ball downfield to Mbappé for a two-on-two in the 66th minute, where the inevitable result was an assist for Antoine Griezmann, even if it was via an unfortunate foot from Willi Orbán.
I for one thought Hungary would crumble at this point, but their fortitude refused such an outcome.
Heroes across the park pressed the French at every opportunity, and in the last 10 minutes followed orders by sitting deep and preventing any space for players that thrive on even the smallest opening.
They fully deserved the point, and will prove an example to all other sides in this competition that when all that is between a nation and footballing history is 90 minutes, it is a matter of hearts and minds that you have to win.
In Munich, Germany were another fine example of psychological density.
They were written off after three years of poor fortune and disgruntlement, as well as an opening defeat here, but after going a goal down to Cristiano Ronaldo’s incisive finish on the counter, more than backed themselves up to win 4-2.
They horrendously exploited Portugal’s vulnerability at full-back, whipping in cross after cross and isolating either Pepe or Ruben Dias with Kai Havertz’s unpredictable runs and shuttling support from Robin Gosens or Joshua Kimmich.
Both own-goals demonstrated this, while follow-ups for Havertz and Gosens proved Portugal were incapable of stopping this onslaught.
Diogo Jota replied with a goal of his own, but even with the risk that Germany had taken of leaving Ronaldo, Jota and Bernardo Silva to attack their back three when Portugal broke, the European champions couldn’t force a comeback.
A supreme performance from Germany, blowing Group F fully back open again in the final round of matches.
The night ended in Seville, where Spain were keen to get their campaign belatedly flowing after disappointment against Sweden.
Poland were the visitors, similarly determined to set some records straight.
If Group F is a quartet containing skill, drama and non-stop entertainment, the Group E that these two sides inhabit is a shoddy cousin.
As the final score reflects, these sides cancelled each other out with play that in no way reflects their ultimate potential.
Spain are excused as they are a side in transition, notably lacking a potent striker – Gerard Moreno was meant to be that, but missed a second-half penalty which was questionably awarded by Anthony Taylor.
Poland are meant to be the finished product, but Paulo Sousa is going nowhere quickly with a set of players that are lost without captain Robert Lewandowski.
1-1 was fair, but this was an unremarkable encounter that won’t intimidate anyone else in the competition.
They will pay for their errors by having to go through the rigmarole of final-day qualification from the group.
Performance of the Day: Anyone on the Hungarian side could’ve qualified for this award, in addition to quite a number in the German contingent today. My pick, however, goes to László Kleinheisler, who ran his devoted heart out in the 30oC heat of Budapest to drag Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot out of position at every given opportunity.
He rarely misplaced a pass – boasting a 90% pass percentage – and by cramping up by the time of his withdrawal in the 84th minute, endeared himself to myself at least. Forza László – Werder Bremen, who only gave him seven appearances after being signed post-Euro 2016, should be ashamed of themselves.
Up Next: AT LAST! We have the uber-dramatic, never boring, unmissableTM final round of group stage fixtures starting on Sunday. Group A is our only visit, but it should be a memorable one – Italy host Wales in a battle for top spot at the Stadio Olimpico, while Switzerland and Turkey face off in Baku for a third-place spot and potential Round of 16 qualification.
Just wait for both games to be as cagey as anything now…
Author - Will Hugall
Now a BA Journalism student at Nottingham Trent University, I divide my time between my base in Radford and back home in East Sussex while watching as much football as I can!