Budapest: Home advantage at the European Championship may not count for much when Hungary faces a Portugal team with scoring talent and one particular player looking to make history.
Cristiano Ronaldo needs six more goals to become the all-time leading scorer for a men’s national team, and one more for the record of most goals at the European Championship.
If the defending champions go far at Euro 2020, Ronaldo could indeed break Iran striker Ali Daei’s record of 109 goals and break a tie with Michel Platini at the continental tournament. He’ll get his first chance to add to his total on Tuesday against the Hungarians at the Puskas Arena.
Ronaldo has scored his nine goals over the past four European tournaments. Platini scored all nine of his goals at the 1984 tournament, which he won with France.
“It’s a good record, but more important than this would be to win back-to-back Euros,” Ronaldo said Monday.
Portugal beat France 1-0 in the Euro 2016 final in extra time after losing Ronaldo to injury. He hobbled off injured midway through the first half.
Besides Ronaldo, the team has scoring threats in standout midfielder Bruno Fernandes, winger Bernardo Silva and forward Diogo Jota.
Fernandes had a superb season at Manchester United, earning the Premier League’s Player of the Month award four times in his second season. He finished in the Premier League’s Team of the Year and scored 28 goals overall, also helping United reach the Europa League final.
Jota became the first player in 27 years to net seven goals in his first 10 Liverpool appearances before being injured. He helped under-pressure Liverpool qualify for the Champions League when he returned.
In a recent match against Israel, Portugal coach Fernando Santos deployed Fernandes, Silva, Jota and Ronaldo together in a 4-0 win.
Hungary may struggle at the other end, too, because Portugal has solidity in defense to go with flair.
Despite his advanced age, 38-year-old Pepe remains an assured central defender. He was outstanding for Porto when it knocked Juventus out of the Champions League in the round of 16 this season.
Ruben Dias was a key player for City as it won the Premier League title. So was Jose Fonte, with Lille winning the French league title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain.
The 37-year-old Fonte provides good backup to Pepe and Dias, while goalkeeper Rui Patricio remains the undisputed No. 1.
Attack-minded right back Joao Cancelo, who scored the pick of the goals against Israel after a typically marauding run, tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the tournament. Santos replaced him in the squad with the more defensive Diogo Dalot.
“It’s a shame that Joao has tested positive,” Ronaldo said, adding the case would not disrupt the team. “We don’t even talk about COVID because we’re really tired of this. Everyone in the world is tired of COVID.”
The Hungarians can expect a partisan crowd at the Puskas Arena, but it’s hard to see how they can upset Portugal.
This team is not as enterprising as it was at Euro 2016, where it took the lead three times in an exciting 3-3 draw with Portugal. Ronaldo, unsurprisingly, scored the last two goals for the Portuguese.
That Hungary team was inspired by the silky skills of midfielder Zoltan Gera, who has since retired after scoring 26 goals for the Magyars.
Gera’s heir, at this tournament at least, should have been Dominik Szoboszlai. The 20-year-old midfielder is considered the biggest talent to emerge in Hungarian soccer since forward Krisztian Nemeth in 2010.
Szoboszlai scored for Salzburg in the Champions League last season, and his stoppage-time winner from 20 meters in a playoff against Iceland sent Hungary into the tournament.
But he withdrew from Euro 2020 two weeks ago because of a persistent adductor injury, leaving Hungary without its biggest talent in a tough group that also includes World Cup champion France and Germany.