France 0-0 Portugal
The Seleção revealed just how much they have improved in the four years since defeating France in the Euro 2016 final with a grounded, energetic, and well-balanced exhibition tonight in St. Denis.
Portugal quieted the host's significant attacking threats and managed to carve out several opportunities of their own in a tight contest befitting two titans of the modern game.
The eventual 0-0 result, though not worth celebrating at the present, maintained Portugal's unbeaten form in the group and leaves them well-positioned to again secure a UEFA Nations League championship playoff berth.
Fernando Santos made seven changes to the side which played out the 0-0 draw with Spain on Wednesday. With Danilo and William both fit again, the double-pivot formation which Santos prefers against strong attacking sides also returned with Félix deputizing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal started surprisingly well in possession, but Rúben Dias was perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow for bloodying the head of Olivier Giroud in only the second minute of play.
Nélson's attempted cross for Ronaldo was cut out in the 11th minute, otherwise the match was well-balanced unlike the previous encounter between the two sides in the Euro 2016 final when the hosts were initially much the better side.
The ball broke for Ronaldo after decent play from Nélson and Bernardo Silva, but Hernández just managed to get in a challenge as Portugal's captain took just a moment too long to pull the trigger.
João Félix attempted to get on the end of a well-delivered free kick from Bruno Fernandes in the 36th minute, but only succeeded in nicking the ball away from Danilo and Cristiano Ronaldo, both of whom were better positioned to score.
France, meanwhile, labored to find a way through the well-organized Portuguese in the opening forty-five minutes with Antoine Griezmann the only player to have directed a shot on target.
Mbappé nearly put France on the board to start the second half with a wonderful piece of skill to beat Danilo, but his chipped effort was poor and swatted down by Patrício. Guerreiro then very nearly played in Ronaldo, but the Juventus star could only stab at the whipped in cross sending it wide of goal.
Diogo Jota replaced Bernardo Silva as Portugal were in need of a more direct option. João Félix managed to scuff in a weak attempt on goal in the 72nd minute and Pepe had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled narrowly offside, but neither side were able to carve out any distinct opportunities.
Substitutions for both sides failed to change the tight contest between them, but Portugal were able to finish with a late flourish as both Renato Sanches and Cristiano Ronaldo registered two well-struck efforts that Hugo Lloris saved, the latter with difficulty at his near post.
Ultimately, Portugal will feel better off for having held on for a single point. With plenty of Nations League action yet to play, Portugal lead on goal differential over France and might feel they were whiskers away from once again beating the French with only poor luck to blame.
Portugal's tactical cohesion was abundantly evident on the night as they were largely untroubled save for a few choice moments. They matched France in both possession and shots. Defensively, Pepe showed his experience and Rúben Dias put in several good challenges on Kylian Mbappé while both fullbacks put in very competent if unspectacular shifts.
Portugal's midfield quartet dealt reasonably well with the threat of Pogba although Bruno Fernandes was guilty of a few more giveaways than normal, even by his standards. João Félix finished Portugal's top-rated player statistically, but again showed some inexperience at times.
The Seleção wrap up this month's international break with another important Nations League outing against Sweden in Lisbon.
by Nathan Motz
Portugal XI: Rui Patrício - Raphael Guerreiro (Cancelo, 89'), Rúben Dias, Pepe, Nélson Semedo - Danilo, William (Moutinho, 88'), Bruno Fernandes (Renato Sanches, 80'), Bernardo Silva (Jota, 61') - Cristiano Ronaldo, João Félix (Trincão, 89')
France XI: Hugo Lloris - Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernández - Kanté, Rabiot, Pogba - Griezmann, Mbappé, Giroud (Martial)