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)

 

Comments (13)

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A very composed and disciplined performance from the Selecao tonight, and we actually came closer to scoring than France did, i.e. the Pepe offside goal and then Ronaldo could easily have won it with that chance at the end. I have said it a few...

A very composed and disciplined performance from the Selecao tonight, and we actually came closer to scoring than France did, i.e. the Pepe offside goal and then Ronaldo could easily have won it with that chance at the end. I have said it a few times on this site in the last few years, and I'll say it again after watching this match: no national team in the world has a greater a*****nce of major (and varied) talent across all positions than Portugal do right now. The sheer number of talented options we have available right now is simply incredible! I would even go so far as to say that looking at tonight's match, and our 11 in comparison to France's 11...and I think we have more variety of talent in that 11 than France do. France have some really talented players like Mbappe and Pogba for example....but quite frankly they also have some pretty average individuals in their first team too. I mean (with all due respect) would anyone want the likes of Giroud, Rabiot and Martial for our Selecao? I certainly wouldn't! I think France have a lot of quality in certain aspects, like in terms of solidity and physical power (i.e. Pogba) and also in quick direct attacking play (i.e. Mbappe)...but they also haven't really got the types of players that we do, like Joao Felix and Bernardo for instance, players with true flair and artistry and real elegance on the ball.

What a job Santos has done with the national team, in firstly harnessing all this talent we have and giving virtually everyone a chance, and secondly in instilling a self-belief, steely strong will and a winning mentality, that used to generally be lacking in our Selecao for the most part. Self-belief makes all the difference in the end. And with this pool of talent we have right now, we simply have to believe we can beat anyone right now, because we can. I read a few comments on this site and on others, where there was still some of the typical Portuguese pessimism in regards to football, people saying things like we'd be lucky to get anything at all against the mighty world beaters of France etc etc....well they are the current world champions and we more than matched them tonight over the 90 mins, away from home! I genuinely believe that at the next World Cup in Qatar in 2 years' time, Portugal will have as much a chance of winning it as any team at all. Some of the talented youngsters will have developed and matured more by then, while some of the experienced veterans (Ronaldo, Pepe etc) will likely still be available for selection. I think the next World Cup could come at just the right time for this amazing crop of players we have. I mention again: self-belief is everything in this game, and if you can mix that with getting the best out of natural talent and utilising tactical strength and discipline, than the sky really is the limit. And hats off to Fernando Santos for the job he's been doing in all of these aspects!

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What are you even saying? Except for Giroud, every national team would love to have Rabiot and Martial. They are still young and they have very exceptional talent. Just look at the clubs they play for. Don't be rude.

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Rabiot and Martial are indeed average AND overrated. Don't be senile

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I think today’s match just further exemplified my belief in this team and calmed some of my anxiety.

The reality is Portugal really didn’t feel too much threat from France. Generally it seemed they were in control with and without the ball. Yes...

I think today’s match just further exemplified my belief in this team and calmed some of my anxiety.

The reality is Portugal really didn’t feel too much threat from France. Generally it seemed they were in control with and without the ball. Yes there were some moments of potential danger, but that happens in literally any game against literally any opponent.

The only thing I was worried about was that we were losing that gritty ability from the Euros, but today showed that it’s certainly still there, it just isn’t on display the entire game due to just being in better control of the games.

Never been happier or more confident in this team! Vamos ganhar esta taca e o Europeu!!!!!!

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I could not agree with Nathan more! Totally spot on. Of course I wish they won but going toe to toe and be literally evenly matched with the current WC champions in their on house was great to see. Well done by the Seleção! Both teams were...

I could not agree with Nathan more! Totally spot on. Of course I wish they won but going toe to toe and be literally evenly matched with the current WC champions in their on house was great to see. Well done by the Seleção! Both teams were defensively sound.

Dias was my man of the match for how well he played defensively. He has shown that he will be a big part of this team for years.

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That was one of the more fascinating 0-0 draws that I've ever seen in my life: Dominated by defense, but not in a cagey, watching-paint-dry-boring kind of way. Both teams genuinely tried to find a way through but couldn't; ultimately the better...

That was one of the more fascinating 0-0 draws that I've ever seen in my life: Dominated by defense, but not in a cagey, watching-paint-dry-boring kind of way. Both teams genuinely tried to find a way through but couldn't; ultimately the better chances fell to us, and, again, we probably should've won.

This game, being the "revenge" game for France following our Euro 2016 win on that very pitch, left me feeling weary beforehand. Although I didn't think it was going to happen, the potential for an embarrassing loss was always there, and after Ruben Dias picked up that very early card, I thought our defense was gonna be in big trouble all match long. But NOPE - defense, Dias and all, were spectacular! Raphael Guerreiro looks like a liability at times defensively for us, but, you can't deny that in virtually every big game where we need him to be solid - he is. And today was no different - he held off the French more than a few times. On the other side, Nelson Semedo looked like a guy who wanted to win the right-back spot tonight. He was my MOTM for Portugal: can't recall him misplacing a pass the entire game, constantly looked to get involved down the flank, made interceptions, used his speed to cover for his teammates in transition, nicked the ball off the opposition a few times, read the danger superbly and anticipated action extremely well... Honestly, I could go on. I was stunned watching him - it was by far his best performance at senior level. And that Dias and Pepe partnership looks rock solid. Pepe, in particular, must be drinking from the same fountain of youth that Cristiano Ronaldo is. There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe how much joy watching them has brought me.

Danilo and William Carvalho... man are they dedicated. As you would expect, they put in a ton of focus and energy organizationally tonight, and, when they work off each other like that, it's damn near impossible to create something of substance. They started to fatigue in the 2nd half and that made us a bit more uncomfortable, but even then, their teammates in behind them seemed eager to up their efforts and help them out, almost as if to repay them for their sacrifice throughout most of the match.

Bruno Fernandes disappointed me a bit today: there are times when you need to take risks with your passing, and there are times when you just need to be smart and play it safe - against France, it should always be a neat and tidy kind of day. My feeling was that, since he's having a tough time at Manchester United at the moment, he wanted to make a point to a large audience and got too "cutesy" with it. That's the frustrating thing with Bruno - and also Joao Felix - at times: they tend to complicate things rather than simplify them. It's a habit that needs to be broken, and once it is, the team will be even better.

On the plus side with Felix though, I was very impressed with his commitment on the defensive end of things. When you see a young, talented, offensive player like Felix constantly tracking back to help out the midfield, it speaks to the culture of the squad and just how much respect Fernando Santos has from the players. Ronaldo did the same - and has been doing the same - albeit to a lesser degree because of his age. I've said it before and I'll say it again : that's the mentality you need to win, and we have it is spades.

I hope Santos makes a few changes for Wednesday vs. Sweden just because I expect the guys to still be exhausted from this one. I'd throw Ruben Neves, Renato Sanches, Joao Cancelo, Diogo Jota, and Andre Silva in there from the start for example, but we'll see what happens. One thing's for sure - we have to keep improving and keep playing to win!

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Pepe was my man of the match. He was phenomenal. Mbappe was totally neutralised. At one time in the second half, he was up there at the right flank controlling the ball really well. Too bad that his goal didn't count. That header was wicked....

Pepe was my man of the match. He was phenomenal. Mbappe was totally neutralised. At one time in the second half, he was up there at the right flank controlling the ball really well. Too bad that his goal didn't count. That header was wicked. Ruben Dias was also rock solid. I'm okay with either Nelson Semedo or Joao Cancelo. They are two dynamic fullbacks and I see them as equals. I bet Cancelo could produce the same good performance as Semedo did last night.

The France defenders were also acceptable. Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez did a great job. Varane had very little to do. It's scary that France still have Laporte, Upamecano, a decent Lenglet, a decent Umtiti and also a decent Zouma from Chelsea at their disposal.

I hope Bernardo Silva regains his form back soon. His season hasn't started so great. I'm okay with Joao Felix though. At such a young age, he is always calm and controls the ball really well, but he needs to strengthen his legs muscle more to produce a deadly shot. I believe if Felix has a mean and wicked shot, he would be able to rival Messi, as the two plays a really similar role.

My issue has always been Bruno Fernandes. He hasn't really shined for Portugal still. The expectation for him is so high, but he hasn't produced anything spectacular. Maybe a bench for him every once in a while would work wonders and gives him the extra determination to hit his best.

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The team looked very mature last night and quite interestingly, we had slightly more possession than France. Also not to forget, we had Covid-19 scare after Lopes testing positive, might have affected our preparation for the game. The match...

The team looked very mature last night and quite interestingly, we had slightly more possession than France. Also not to forget, we had Covid-19 scare after Lopes testing positive, might have affected our preparation for the game. The match itself was very tactical, infact the way both teams anticipated the dangers, recovering the ball as quickly as possible, rapidly getting into their position after losing the ball in the final third, crowding out star players like Ronaldo, Mbappe,Felix,Bernardo,Pogba with 2-3 players was real treat to watch. France even managed to anticipate the direction of William's passes. In such a tight game, we came close scoring one plus Ronaldo's effort in the dyng stages of the game.

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@ Dhazer...look you are free to believe the narrative that every single player in the French team is a superstar, that's your right. And it's also my right to believe that they are not as quite as strong and so above everyone else as people make...

@ Dhazer...look you are free to believe the narrative that every single player in the French team is a superstar, that's your right. And it's also my right to believe that they are not as quite as strong and so above everyone else as people make out, and I mention those players again....I mean Giroud is still their first choice number 9? Really?

You say "every national team would love to have Rabiot and Martial"? I genuinely wouldn't! Give me Bruno Fernandes and Guedes any day. By your rationale a player is great because of the club he plays for? It doesn't quite work like that mate! By that rational then every single player who plays for Barcelona for example must be a class act, yet they got hammered 8-1 recently didn't they? It's not as simple as that. I'm not saying that Rabiot and Martial don't have quality, nor am I suggesting that France are not a very strong national team (of course they are, they are the current world champions!). I'm just stating they not quite as formidable and untouchable as many people seem to believe, and I think our Selecao demonstrated that last night, by matching them all the way and even having the best chances to score in the 90 mins.

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First time I can recall Portugal going up against a big team with zero doubt that they are as good or better. Very composed and mature without over respecting the opposition to their own detriment.

Very accomplished performance. The team should...

First time I can recall Portugal going up against a big team with zero doubt that they are as good or better. Very composed and mature without over respecting the opposition to their own detriment.

Very accomplished performance. The team should also only get better. I like the fight Jota brings

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It was a very even game and a draw is a good result for us. Hopefully we can keep
Pace at the top of the table and win the return fixture in Lisbon.

I think Portugal’s performance is also impressive considering that this lineup we have fielded...

It was a very even game and a draw is a good result for us. Hopefully we can keep
Pace at the top of the table and win the return fixture in Lisbon.

I think Portugal’s performance is also impressive considering that this lineup we have fielded is relatively new compared to France. For instance , Bruno fernandes , Felix and jota are still relative newbies to the international scene.

Dias and Pepe were the best performers, dias didn’t let himself get phased after picking up an early booking. Felix was imo the best out of the attacking players. His technical ability is superb and can unlock defenses.

If this lineup started against Spain, I am sure we would have won that game.

Santos has to
Keep building chemistry. I feel Sanches should probably be starting in place of Danilo or William.

Also France is by a long shot, the best defence this Portugal side can expect to come up against.

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I think this game, and the prior game against Spain, finally proved to all of the doubters that 2016 was no fluke. This Portugal team can play "olhos no olhos" with any of the traditionally stronger clubs/countries. This was the first time I...

I think this game, and the prior game against Spain, finally proved to all of the doubters that 2016 was no fluke. This Portugal team can play "olhos no olhos" with any of the traditionally stronger clubs/countries. This was the first time I saw a team of the caliber of France show "fear" of Portugal. You could see the hesitation in their game and the fear in their eyes. Portugal has now gained the respect of the footballing "giants". They are playing with a confidence on the ball that I have never seen. Teams like France, Spain, Germany, used to come into games against Portugal believing that Portugal had no shot to get the win. Not anymore. Portugal has showed that they are no longer pretenders. They are now legit contenders. Bring on the Euro, Nation League, World Cup!!! This is our time!!!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It doesn’t matter who takes the penalties. When the team scores, I score too”

Bruno Fernandes
(Manchester United midfielder after passing up the opportunity to score a Champions League hat-trick by telling Marcus Rashford take a penalty instead of him) 

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