Whether or not Portugal retain their crown, the defending champions have already done two things they did not in Euro 2016. They have won a group game and they have beaten Hungary.
Victory came late but with a slice of history for Cristiano Ronaldo. His late brace meant that the first player to play in five different European Championships had scored in each. His 10th and 11th goals over those tournaments made him the competition’s leading scorer, displacing Michel Platini, whose nine all came in 1984.
His was statistically the most important strikes. But in the context of the game, it was the left-back Raphael Guerreiro who ended Hungary’s resistance.
It was the first game of the tournament with a capacity crowd, with an attendance of 67,000 the largest in Budapest for 40 years, and the underdogs in Group F showed the spirit and resolve to seemed likely to earn them a point.
Every challenge was cheered. Every minute took them nearer to a reward for their efforts.
Then they were doubly unfortunate as the deadlock was broken. Rafa Silva’s cross was deflected and then so was Guerreiro’s shot. It was particularly cruel on Willi Orban, who got the telling touch and who had defended defiantly.
His afternoon got worse as he conceded the penalty, for a foul on Rafa Silva and, 17 years after his first goal on this stage, Ronaldo duly converted the spot kick. Then he strolled around the goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi in injury time to score his 106th international goal. Rafa Silva, who provided the pass, made a third crucial contribution in swift succession.
Ronaldo may yet overhaul Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals over the next few weeks. He has equalled Lothar Matthaus’ feat of playing in nine major tournaments. It felt entirely in character he marked the occasion with a goal.
First, however, came a glaring miss. He blazed over from seven yards a couple of minutes before half-time. He also glanced a header wide. And yet Portugal feel less reliant on Ronaldo now. Their Euro 2016 winner came from the unheralded Eder.
Now they have such a luxury of riches that the €120 million man Joao Felix and Andre Silva, the scorer of 29 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt this season, were deluxe substitutes, confined to 10 minutes apiece. Instead Rafa Silva was the most influential arrival.
Ronaldo’s sidekick posed the first threat. Diogo Jota drew the first save with a stinging shot from 20 yards and hooked a volley over the bar.
Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes found Peter Gulacsi in fine form when he tried his luck from 25 yards while the goalkeeper made a diving save to deny Pepe when the tournament’s oldest outfield player met a corner with a header.
Hungary adopted a policy of containment, allowing their visitors much of the possession, but defending with determination and organisation.
The captain Adam Szalai operated in attack but tracked back with the willingness of a workhorse. While Hungary’s attacks were sporadic, they often involved the Mainz striker. He met a free kick with a header that Rui Patricio held and directed a long-range effort at the Portugal goalkeeper.
The substitute Szabolcs Schon did beat Patricio but celebrations of what he thought was a winner were curtailed when he was rightly ruled offside. Instead, Portugal’s late salvo brought three goals.
It is a win that could assume considerable significance. The three superpowers in the Group of Death may all need to beat Hungary to avoid perishing. Now there is less pressure on Portugal when they face Germany in their next match.