Hungary’s fans created a deafening wall of noise as their team walked around the new Puskas Arena on Saturday to receive the applause after their gritty 1-1 draw against world champions France.
With more than 60,000 fans yelling for joy, it was impossible to hear anything else after the team claimed its first point in the competition.
“It’s been a long lull, but now we have this awesome stadium and this awesome, fighting team, and I just feel like I’m back in my youth again,” said Gyula Matyi, a 60 year-old amateur football player from Budapest at the match.
The only stadium to allow a full capacity crowd in during the Euro 2020 football championship, the Puskas Arena was completed in 2019 as a pet project of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a football fanatic who has often been criticised for spending on his favourite sport.
But politics was set aside on Saturday as the home fans went berserk when their team took the lead in the dying seconds of the first half, producing the kind of noise that pandemic-ravaged European football has missed for more than a year.
Although France equalised in the second half, the fans continued to fill the arena with chanting all the way until the final whistle, when they erupted as if Hungary had won the tournament.
The team then walked to the home goal and, with their hands on their hearts, sang the national anthem in a deafening chorus with the fans, which they also did after their late meltdown and 3-0 loss against Portugal on Tuesday.
“I was here for the first match too, and it was just as fantastic to cheer on the team,” said Matyi. “They lost then, although it was by a hair. But we knew they could pull this off too.”
“My father-in-law, he is 82, is down there behind the goal in the mosh pit supporting the team with his grandson. He told me ‘I don’t care what happens, this is once in a lifetime!’.”
At halftime, fans waiting in lines for beer sang and chanted “Ria-Ria-Hungaria!” and other old lines that used to support the country’s former greats like Ferenc Puskas and the Magic Magyars of the 1950s.
Marton Gyimesi, a 41 year-old mechanic, soaked up the scene with his 4-year-old daughter sitting on his shoulders.
“I want her to grow up in a country that gives her this on a regular basis,” he said. “I spent my youth envying the big football nations and listening to my father’s generation rave about football in their time. This gives me hope there may be decent football in Hungary soon, too.”
‘Liverpool won’t stop me’ -Xherdan Shaqiri is ready for a new challenge
Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to attract increased interest from a number of clubs this week, according to Liverpool.
Following his great achievements at this summer’s European Championships, several Italian and Spanish clubs have expressed interest in pulling him away from Anfield.
After making just six starts for the Reds last season, Shaqiri has notified Liverpool authorities of his desire for a new challenge.
Sevilla, Villarreal, Napoli, and Lazio are all said to have approached the forward’s agents to inquire about a move away from Anfield, where he has been for the past three years.
“I told Liverpool, board, I feel ready for a new challenge,” Shaqiri told Italian publication Corriere Dello Sport.
“They accepted my decision and will now consider bids to sell me. Liverpool won’t stop me this summer.
“The important thing at this moment in my career is to be able to play regularly, but that hasn’t always been the case in the last three seasons.
“I’m only 29 years old, I have played in some of the best Leagues in Europe and I would like to continue being a part of them.
“I’m not yet thinking about the end of my career, it’s a future I imagine far away. We will see what destiny has in store for me.
“I have no direct contact; my consultant team deals with the market. They inform me when there are clubs interested, you have to ask them for the names.”
Shaqiri’s deal ends in 2022, but Liverpool has the option to extend it for another year, so they aren’t in any hurry to transfer him for a bargain this summer.
Regarding a possible transfer to Lazio, Shaqiri added: “Igli Tare (sporting director) has been doing an excellent job at Lazio for years.
“If it’s true that he has great respect for me, then I’m honoured.
“I have been following Lazio for a long time, they are a top team. In general, due to my characteristics, I like to play more attacking football and Maurizio Sarri practices it. It would be intriguing.”
Southgate tells England stars to bounce back
Gareth Southgate urged England to use the pain of their Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy to fuel success in the future as the Three Lions boss accepted the blame for their heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat.
England failed to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed penalties at Wembley on Sunday.
Southgate’s side had made a dream start thanks to Luke Shaw’s second-minute goal, but Italy showed their class to hit back through Leonardo Bonucci’s second-half equaliser.
When it came to penalties, Southgate gambled by sending on late substitutes Rashford and Sancho specifically for their prowess from the spot.
The move backfired as England suffered the latest in a long line of bitter shootout defeats at major tournaments.
“That is my responsibility. I chose the guys to take the kicks. I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation,” Southgate said.
“It is my decision to give Saka that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon.
“Marcus and Jadon have been by far the best in the lead-in. It was a gamble (to bring them on), but if we gamble earlier we maybe lose the game in extra time.”
England had actually won their last two penalty shootouts against Colombia at the 2018 World Cup and against Switzerland in the 2019 Nations League.
But even those successes weren’t enough to keep Southgate’s players from losing their nerve when the stakes were highest.
With over 60 000 fans roaring them on and millions more watching at home, sporting immortality beckoned for England if they had won the shootout.
Jordan Pickford did his part with two saves and Southgate insisted he had no regrets about his picks for the penalty takers.
“We’ve tracked them, what they’ve done with their clubs over a long period of time and what they’ve shown in training as well,” Southgate said.
“That’s the process that worked for us in Russia and in the Nations League. Tonight it didn’t quite work.”
Southgate admitted his side’s lack of composure on the ball proved fatal as they allowed Italy to regain their composure following Shaw’s opener.
“We did start well. They were bound to have a spell where they came into the game,” Southgate said.
“We didn’t keep the ball well enough in that initial period in the second half. It was our lack of composure in possession that turned the game. The way they used the ball was better than us.”
After an uplifting run to their first European Championship final featuring memorable knockout stage wins over Germany, Ukraine and Denmark, Southgate and his players have to pick up the pieces after seeing their dreams shattered.
They have the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to aim for and Southgate believes they will be better for the experience of their Euro run.
“At the moment the players are understandably really quiet. Prince William has just been down to see them in the dressing room and has rightly thanked them for what they’ve done and being fulsome in his praise,” Southgate said.
“I said we could have no recriminations. We win and lose together. They’ve got to walk away from here with their heads held high.
“They’ve done more than any other team in the last 50 or so years. In terms of the players, they should be incredibly proud of what they’ve done.”
Mulling over the missed opportunity to lead England to a long-awaited major title, Southgate said he hoped the thrilling journey at least partially made up for the bitter ending.
“Tonight the balloon is burst isn’t it? The feeling will be very empty I know,” he said.
“That’s hard for everyone to take. We wanted to give everyone one more night to continue the biggest party ever.
“We haven’t been able to do that but I hope we’ve given everybody some incredible memories.”
Liverpool leading the chase for Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is said to be leading the fight to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez this summer.
The Spanish press has begun to speculate the news, with Saul being linked with a summer move to Liverpool to join Jurgen Klopp’s team.
The Reds have spotted an opportunity due to Atletico’s deteriorating financial situation, according to Diario AS in Spain.
The Madrid-based club was boosted by a spectacular LaLiga title, but they have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and must claw back funds as a result.
As a result, rumors say that Atletico would consider offers for the 26-year-old in the area of €40 million (£35 million) this summer.
Last season, Saul was pushed down the pecking order by Diego Simeone, and Atletico have already made a midfield addition this summer with the acquisition of the intriguing Rodrigo de Paul.
Saul is now trailing Koke, Thomas Lemar, and Marcos Llorente, with Hector Herrera and Geoffrey Kondogbia all playing for Atletico.
According to reports, German heavyweights Bayern Munich have approached Saul, but he has stated that he will only leave the Spanish side for the Premier League.
The 26-year-old is under a long-term contract with Atletico until the summer of 2026, with a €150 million release clause.
Atletico, on the other hand, is said to be eager to sell and utilize the money to develop their squad in preparation for a title defense next season.
After allowing Georginio Wijnaldum to join Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent this summer, Liverpool are keeping a close eye on the midfield transfer market.
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