Gary Lim: Don't believe your hype, Austria
Tournament dark horses pay the price for complacency
(Adam Szalai 63, Zoltan Stieber 87)
The tournament's dark horses arrived in France dripping with potential.
But Austria left the Matmut Atlantique looking like a side who believed their own hype.
Facing Hungary this morning (Singapore time) in their opening match, they were widely expected to begin their campaign with a bang.
Instead, they lost 2-0 to a team believed to be the competition's weakest.
The fluidity that they oozed in their play during an unbeaten qualifying campaign - nine wins and one draw - went missing when it mattered.
In only their second European Championship Finals appearance, they suffered from a severe bout of stage fright.
It sure didn't look that way for Austria in the opening proceedings.
In fact, they almost got off to a dream start.
David Alaba crashed a long-range shot onto the post within seconds of kick-off.
And they came close to scoring again in the 10th minute.
Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic released Alaba, whose shot from inside the box was well saved by 40-year-old Hungarian goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly. The veteran continued to defy his age with his acrobatic saves for the remainder of the first half.
Ten minutes before the break, it was Zlatko Junuzovic's turn to be denied. This time, his shot from the edge of the penalty box was scooped out for a corner kick.
The chances were piling up for the Austrians, but the finishing simply didn't measure up.
Martin Harnik will rue not giving his side the lead in the 41st minute, when Arnautovic's teasing cross during a counter-attack rolled across the penalty area towards him.
Harnik, though, made a mess of it by slipping just before connecting with the ball.
However, Hungary managed to keep their composure despite being on the receiving end of relentless attacking.
They almost sneaked in a goal against the run of play just before the break, only for Balazs Dzsudzsak to screw his shot wide when left with just goalkeeper Robert Almer to beat.
Austria continued to dominate the second half.
Yet, there was a sense of calm in the Hungarian camp that Austria just couldn't emulate.
They were rewarded, somewhat deservedly, for their immaculate composure.
In the 63rd minute, Adam Szalai gave the underdogs the lead after some wonderful combination play with Dzsudzsak.
This was the test for Austria.
But when the pressure was cranked up, they lost their heads.
Soon after the opening goal, Aleksandar Dragovic was sent off for a second yellow, following a strong challenge on Tamas Kadar.
Against 10 men, Hungary seized the advantage, and delivered the knockout punch.
In a swift counter-attack just before the end, Zoltan Stieber lifted the ball over the goalkeeper to complete a sweet 2-0 victory.
At the final whistle, Austria's players looked like they had just woken up from a nightmare.
The team ranked 10th in the world and fifth among the European nations had just lost to a side thought to be the tournament's whipping boys.
Austria must start playing at the level they are capable of, and not think a game is won before the ball is even kicked.