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Switzerland holds on to beat Hungary at Euro 2024

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Breel Embolo ran, arms spread wide in celebration, after his goal that meant a win for Switzerland and a triumphant personal comeback.

Embolo had not played for Switzerland in 18 months as a succession of injuries — worst of all a cruciate ligament tear — left him an observer of his club Monaco and of his national team. They robbed the momentum of a player who scored two goals in four games at the last World Cup.

It was all in the past as Embolo scored in added time to complete Switzerland's 3-1 win over Hungary in both teams' first game of the European Championship on Saturday.

The chance came out of nowhere — a Hungary defender gave away the ball — but Embolo's lobbed finish over the goalkeeper made it seem like he hadn't missed a moment.

“It was a very uncertain situation after the very serious, long injury and another injury after that. We had hope,” Swiss coach Murat Yakin said of Embolo.

Embolo hadn't been able to train with the team for much of the pre-tournament camp and didn't play in two friendlies. But captain Granit Xhaka said Embolo was “a very, very important player for our team, both on the field and off the field.”

Until Embolo scored, Hungary threatened a comeback. Switzerland led 2-0 but was in danger of letting it slip as Hungary burst into life midway through the second half.

A tactical surprise paid off as Switzerland coach Murat Yakin picked forward Kwadwo Duah and midfielder Michel Aebischer in his starting lineup and they both scored.

Duah opened the scoring in just his second game for Switzerland, shooting low past goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi off a pass from Aebischer. The offside flag went up but a long video review confirmed the goal and the delighted Duah was surrounded by the Swiss bench players.

Aebischer made it 2-0 just before halftime, finding space on the edge of the box to hit a curling low shot past Gulacsi.

Barnabas Varga’s diving header in the 66th off Dominik Szoboszlai’s cross brought celebrations for Hungary as some of its black T-shirt-wearing hardcore fans lit flares. Hungary kept up the pressure after that but couldn't score a second time before Embolo's goal decided the game.

Hungary coach Marco Rossi said his team was “too passive” in the first half and a “tactical misunderstanding” allowed Aebischer too much time on the ball to shape Swiss attacks.

Switzerland is second in Group A after host Germany beat Scotland 5-1 on Friday in the tournament opener. Hungary had its first loss in a competitive game since September 2022.

Switzerland’s next game is on Wednesday against Scotland. Hungary plays Germany the same day in a rematch from the last European Championship, when they drew 2-2.

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AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024