Portugal and France met in the final round of the ‘Group of Death’ with all four teams still having aspirations of reaching the knockout stage and even topping the group. France are already guaranteed a place in the last 16 and a win will assure them of top spot and a round of 16 game against one of the four best third places teams. A point will be good enough for both teams to qualify, however that will leave the door open for Germany to finish the group as Group winners with a victory over Hungary, who still can qualify themselves with a win over Germany.
Portugal will be desperate to take the three points in Budapest to avoid the possibility of playing group winners Netherlands or Belgium. A second-place finish will result in a game at Wembley against England, another match up ‘Os Navegadores” and ‘Les Bleus’ will be keen to avoid. Portugal had only beaten France once in their last 13 meetings, however, that was in the Euro 2016 final, when an extra-time strike from Eder on French soil, securing Portugals first trophy at a major tournament.
The big news coming from the Portuguese starting line up was the absence of Manchester United‘s star man Bruno Fernandes. After two sub par performances from the former Sporting Lisbon man, he was replaced in midfield by Renato Sanches after an impressive cameo against Germany.
Another change in midfield was the experienced Wolves man Joao Moutinho coming in to make his 134th international cap at the expense of William Carvalho. Moutinho and Sanches were joined in midfield by Danilo Pereira. As for the rest of the team, it remained the same from their 4-2 defeat to Germany, spearheaded by Captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who interestingly had never scored against France despite facing them on six occasions, with Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva in support.
As for France, Didier Deschamps made three changes from their draw against Hungary, Corentin Tolisso came in for Adrien Rabiot in midfield, Lucas Hernandez returned to the team replacing Everton man Lucas Digne at left-back, and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde came in for just his second ever French cap, and his first competitive one replacing Benjamin Pavard at right back.
Much like when they took on Germany, France were happy to let Portugal dictate the opening proceedings with only a tame Ronaldo header to note in the opening ten minutes.
News of a shock Hungary opener in Munich filtered through and there was a mass cheer from both sections, a defeat for Germany would mean a point would suffice for France to win the group and Portugal to come second, above Hungary on the head to head.
The first real chance in the game went France’s way when Paul Pogba found himself in space, broke the line and Kylian Mbappe, help his run well, but Rui Patricio was equal to it. An interesting tactical ploy from Portugal saw wide men Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva acting as second fullbacks when they didn’t have the ball, with central midfielders Renato Sanches and Joao Moutinho pressing highest with Ronaldo.
Just before the half-hour mark, a free-kick delivered by Moutinho and Hugo Lloris followed through on his punch to clear the ball, knocking out Danilo Pereira and conceding a penalty in the process. Up stepped Ronaldo and he made no mistake from 12 yards sending Lloris the wrong way to give Portugal a priceless lead. This made Ronaldo the top European goal scorer at major international tournaments. France started to get frustrated, and Lucas Hernandez picked up the first yellow card of the evening for a reckless foul on Bernardo Silva.
A casual approach from an already qualified France was their downfall in the first half. Another rash challenge right on halftime by Presnel Kimpembe presented Portugal with the chance to double their lead, however, Moutinho was unable to beat the first man. An over the top ball by Pogba, finding Mbappe, once again making a run from the left and was brought down by Nelson Semedo, a penalty was given perhaps to make up for Portugal’s soft penalty of their own. Up stepped Benzema, and like Ronaldo, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to level the game up at 1-1 right on half time.
Both teams made a half time substitution with France bringing on Lucas Digne for Lucas Hernandez, who struggled to deal with Bernardo Silva and was on a yellow card, and Portugal gave Sporting midfielder Joao Palhinha his tournament debut, replacing Pereira, who perhaps had not recovered from the blow to the head he received whilst winning the penalty.
The first chance of the second half was after another excellent pass from Pogba, who found Benzema who got in behind Dias and finished. The goal was originally ruled out but VAR found him to be level, and the goal stood and France took the lead. Portugal almost replied immediately, after Ronaldo beat Kimpembe in the air but headed wide.
Lucas Digne, the substitute, injured himself almost straight away and was replaced by central midfielder leading to a defensive reshuffle, with Rabiot going in midfield, Tolisso moving to right-back, Kounde joined Varane in the middle with Kimpembe at left-back.
Portugal, knowing they were heading out as things stood, upped the ante and Portugal earned their second penalty of the game, probably the least controversial of them all, due to a Kounde handball and Ronaldo once again made no mistake levelling the game at 2-2 and placing Portugal back into second place. French frustration grew as the momentum was with Portugal once again in this topsy turvy encounter, however, an abysmal free-kick from Bernardo Silva helped France regain their composure. To counter this the French players reverted back to their starting positions with Rabiot moving to left back.
A moan from the Portuguese fans went round the stadium as news filtered through that Germany had equalised in Munich, bumping Portugal down to third place, however before they even had a chance to take a breath, Hungary retook the lead and Portugal were back in second. Doing his best to keep them there was Rui Patricio and an excellent double save after a long shot from Pogba and rebound shot from Griezmann kept ‘Os Navegadores’ level.
Os Navegadores were wary of attacking too much at the risk of conceding and crashing out, started to sit off and looked like they were happy with the point that would see them through as the French began to dominate. News of a second German goal filtered through and although that bumped Portugal down to third, that offered Portugal the safety that any result would see them through.
As the game reached injury time, with both teams aware of the stalemate in Munich, the tempo slowed as both teams seemed happy with what they had. A late appeal for an incredible fourth penalty in injury time when Bruno Fernandes pulled down Kingsley Coman, but after a lengthy VAR check wasn’t given. The full-time whistle blew and Portugal have been in all four positions over the course of the night will probably be relieved to have got through.
Portugal will take on Belgium, and the French will take on Switzerland, as for Germany who we’re ten minutes away from going out will travel to Wembley to take on England. Great effort from Hungary but not quite enough for them in the end.
Rui Patricio- Good save and positioning in a one on one with Mbappe. Great double save to keep Portugal level. 8
Nelson Semedo- Struggled with Mbappe’s running, was unlucky to give away penalty. Had to be taken off as a precaution with 10 minutes to go. 6
Ruben Dias- Didn’t cover himself in glory for second goal. Very composed on ball, hasn’t reached high levels he showed for Manchester City so far this tournament. 5
Pepe- Could have maybe come across better for second goal to support Dias. Other than that also very composed on ball. 6
Raphael Guerreiro- Good crossing ability, was allowed to get forward due to a lack of French right winger especially in first half. 6
Danilo Pereira- won penalty, taken off due to possible head blow from penalty. 6
Joao Moutinho- Playing a bit ahead of Sanches and Pereira in the number 10 role, brought a calmness to team and helped Portugal retain possession and was the go to player to link from defence to attack, great delivery for the penalty. taken off with 20 minutes to go. 7
Renato Sanches- Poor touches on a few occasions, however brought energy and control to midfield. Great strength. Taken off with minutes left, great performance from him and has earned his spot in team now. 8
Bernardo Silva- well discipline, gave Hernandez tough time in first half, was one of their best players and was surprisingly taken off. 8
Diogo Jota- Good discipline supporting Guerreiro, poor decision making going forward. Didn’t affect game as much as he would have liked. 5
Cristiano Ronaldo- nice step overs to earn a foul and card. Showed great composure for two high pressured penalties, never in doubt really! 8
Joao Palhinha- Tournament debut, kept ball ticking nicely, didn’t create anything of note. 5
Bruno Fernandes- Came on on right wing, struggled again. Could have given away late penalty. 4
Ruben Neves- Offered control and ball retention was vital when Portugal were holding out for draw, offered good defensive protection. 6
Diogo Dalot- Subbed on with ten minutes to go replacing the injured Nelson Semedo. Nothing major apart from being beaten by Coman towards end. 4
Sergio Oliveira- Fresh legs towards end of game, nothing of note. N/A
Hugo Lloris- Will feel aggrieved with the penalty he gave away, although his timing was poor. Wasn’t tested much other than that. 6
Jules Kounde- Had to provide all the width on the right due to France’s lopsided attack, wasn’t able to affect game in attacking areas as much as he would have hoped. Silly handball to allow Portugal route back into game. 5
Raphael Varane- Poor header to give Ronaldo a snapshot. All in all didn’t do a bad job and had nothing to do with either penalty. 6
Presnel Kimpembe- Rash challenges at 1-0 probably due to frustration. Moved to left back briefly in second half, struggled to deal with Ronaldo and beaten in air on a few occasions. 5
Lucas Hernandez- Struggled to deal with Bernardo Silva, was booked, and off at half time. 4
N’golo Kante- One rare mistake, leading to a half chance for Jota, attempted to drive forward on a few occasions not his best night. 6
Paul Pogba- Easily dispossessed once in midfield, great ball to Mbappe on more than one occasion including for the penalty. Great ball for second goal. Just looks a completely different player for France. 9
Corentin Tolisso- attempting long ball on many occasions, struggled to affect game from right. Filled in at right back briefly before being replaced by Kingsley Coman. 5
Antoine Griezmann- Great defensive work rate, finding pockets of space and knitting everything together. Taken off towards end as France attempted to sure things up. 7
Kylian Mbappe- early trickery dribble, good run coming in from left on a few occasions including with penalty with Semedo struggling to deal with him. Was perhaps fortunate to win penalty and wasn’t as busy as normal. 6
Karim Benzema- Didn’t get involved that much in first half, but was there when it mattered to get France on level terms from the penalty spot. Great finish for second goal, huge confidence booster going into knockout rounds. 8
Lucas Digne- Unfortunate to be injured as he came on, hopefully he can feauture again this tournament. N/A
Adrien Rabiot- Would have been disappointed not to start after starting the last two. Filled in well at left back. Gets a higher mark for playing in an unfamiliar role. 7
Kingsley Coman- Offered more of a threat as a natural wide man on that right hand side. Good tracking back, caused problems wide. 6
Moussa Sissoko- Came on to sure things up with little time remaining and did what he would have been asked. N/A
France showed flashes of brilliance and will be happy to have topped their group despite not being at their best. Paul Pogba was brilliant once again and France will be encouraged to have seen a brace for Karim Benzema, his first goals at a European Championships. They will meet Switzerland in the round of 16 and will meet either Spain or Croatia in the final. What has impressed me personally most about this French squad is how Didier Deschamps has managed to get all this star players to track back defensively and their work rate has been top class.
As for Portugal, who looked on the verge of a group stage exit at one point will be relieved to have qualified in third place, however third place in Group F is where they finished in the last championship when they went on to win the competition. Renato Sanches and Joao Moutinho did well coming into the side and Bruno Fernandes struggled again. They will meet Belgium in a tasty looking round of 16 game and that will be followed by a potential meeting with Italy in the quarter-finals in what looks like a tough road to the final for Fernando Santos’s men.
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