Sunday, July 14, 2024

Preview: Portugal vs. France – prediction, team news, lineups – Sports Mole


Portugal vs. France. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Kylian Mbappe. A repeat of the 2016 showpiece. Friday’s Euro 2024 quarter-final at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg promises to be an absorbing affair.
Roberto Martinez‘s men dramatically bested a plucky Slovenia side on penalties to prolong their quest for glory, while Les Bleus were also far from convincing in their 1-0 beating of Belgium.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts on July 1, 2024© Reuters
Monday’s Deutsche Bank Park battle between Portugal and Slovenia was one of tragedy and triumph for Selecao superstar Ronaldo, whose attempts to score a goal at Euro 2024 remain fruitless, thanks in no small part to Jan Oblak‘s heroic extra-time penalty save from the 39-year-old.
Tears flowed from Ronaldo’s face before Slovenia kept Martinez’s men off the scoresheet for the final 15 minutes of the 120, but as the Al-Nassr man, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes all registered from 12 yards, the Slovenians met an impenetrable wall in Diogo Costa.
Replacing Ronaldo as Portugal’s hero for the evening, Costa became the first male goalkeeper to ever save three penalties in a European Championship shootout to propel the 2016 champions into the quarter-finals, sparing the blushes of his teammates who were repelled time and time again by Matjaz Kek‘s valiant troops.
Already going one better than their agonising last-16 exit at the delayed Euro 2020, Portugal will be rewarded with an equally daunting semi-final against either Spain or Germany should they conquer the French in Hamburg, but their shooting boots have abandoned them at the most inopportune time.
Indeed, Martinez’s men have now gone scoreless in their last two Euro 2024 ties – having also been shocked 2-0 by Georgia’s history-makers in their final Group F encounter – but their upcoming foes have not exactly hit the lofty attacking heights expected of them either.
France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates their first goal scored by Randal Kolo Muani on July 1, 2024© Reuters
Four matches into the current European Championships, and a French player is yet to score a goal through open play, but the fact of the matter is that Didier Deschamps‘s men are quarter-finalists once again, banishing the demons of their Euro 2020 dejection.
On the back of their underwhelming group-stage display – where their only goals came via Austria defender Maximilian Wober and a Kylian Mbappe penalty – France pitted their wits against a Belgium side with a blend of youthful talent and the so-called ‘golden generation’, and it was a member of the latter that decided both teams’ destiny.
A beleaguered Belgium unit had kept the 2018 world champions at arm’s length for 85 minutes, until Randal Kolo Muani‘s effort took a wicked deflection off of Jan Vertonghen, condemning the Red Devils to more major tournament misery in Dusseldorf.
For all of Les Bleus’ rather pitiful attacking play, Deschamps ought to have taken pride from another exceptional defensive performance as France kept their third clean sheet in four Euro 2024 matches, and Robert Lewandowski‘s penalty for Poland is the only goal that Les Bleus have conceded in their last six.
While Ronaldo’s head-to-head versus Mbappe will steal the pre-game headlines, a less revered striker in Eder memorably conjured up the solitary goal in Portugal’s historic Euro 2016 final triumph over France, although that represents the Selecao’s only win from their last 13 against Les Bleus, whom they drew 2-2 with in the 2021 group phase in a game of three penalties.

France's Adrien Rabiot, Mike Maignan and teammates during training on May 30, 2024© Reuters
Martinez and the Portugal physios will need to conduct thorough checks on their charges who completed 120 minutes on Monday, but at this juncture, there are no serious fitness concerns for the 2016 champions to report ahead of the quarter-final.
As a result, another untouched XI ought to be sent out onto the field on Friday, where a 212th cap will come the way of Ronaldo, who has now fired 20 shots on goal without scoring at the tournament; only four male players have had more without success in the history of the Euros.
Diogo Jota and Francisco Conceicao appear to be first in line for promotion from the bench, but Silva and Rafael Leao have nailed down their spots in the Selecao attack, while Vitinha and Joao Palhinha should be in no danger of ceding their midfield spots either.
However, there will have to be one alteration to the France XI, as Adrien Rabiot – now a free agent after his contract with Juventus expired – is suspended on account of picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in the last-16 win over Belgium.
Any of Ousmane Dembele, Eduardo Camavinga, Youssouf Fofana or Warren Zaire-Emery could take Rabiot’s spot depending on what formation Deschamps favours, and the only possible Bleus absentee should be Kingsley Coman, who like Phil Foden earlier in the tournament has left the camp for the birth of his child.
Rabiot formed a part of a diamond midfield for Les Bleus in Dusseldorf, allowing Marcus Thuram to spearhead the charge alongside Mbappe, but the Inter Milan striker was hooked with just an hour played and is certainly at risk of dropping out for Kolo Muani.

Portugal possible starting lineup:
Costa; Cancelo, Dias, Pepe, Mendes; Palhinha, Vitinha; Silva, Fernandes, Leao; Ronaldo
France possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Kounde, Saliba, Upamecano, Hernandez; Kante, Tchouameni; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Kolo Muani

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A Portugal side scoreless in two matches facing a France side to have shipped just one goal in their last six matches points to more offensive misery for the Selecao, whose own defence can still expect to hold out for large periods against an equally timid Bleus attack.
Whether Friday is the day that one of Deschamps’s men scores from open play remains to be seen, but the 2018 World Cup winners are not short of methods to force the ball over the line, and for that reason, another one-goal triumph could come the way of Les Bleus and bring the curtain down on Ronaldo’s Euros career.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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