Portugal’s 2023 European U17 Championship campaign came to an end in the group stage after a 1-1 draw against France at Balmazújváros Városi Stadion.
Fodé Sylla put France ahead in the 10th minute with Filipe Ramos making two substitutions before the break.
He couldn’t have asked for a better outcome after introducing Geovany Quenda and Nuno Patrício in the 39th minute, Quenda’s corner converted by Patrício two minutes later.
The Equipa das Quinas had most of the momentum in the second half but couldn’t find the winning goal.
Quenda tested Paul Argney from a tight angle, the final chance coming in added time when Rodrigo Duarte headed Martim Fernandes’ cross over the bar.
Sylla fires France in front
Portugal had a promising start in Balmazújváros, winning possession in dangerous areas but unable to promote the ball into attacking situations.
France took the lead from a free kick in the 10th minute. Saïmon Bouabré sent the ball into the danger area where Gonçalo Ribeiro punched the ball clear, Fodé Sylla picking it up before spinning and steering it into the bottom corner.
Martim Fernandes was regularly advancing forward and getting fouled, one of which saw Tidiam Gomis pick up the first yellow card of the match.
Filipe Ramos was unhappy with what he was seeing and decided to make two changes in the 39th minute, Gonçalo Moreira and Gonçalo Sousa making way for Geovany Quenda and Nuno Patrício.
It proved to be a masterstroke with both players combining to score the equaliser two minutes later. Quenda sent an ugly corner into the box which wasn't cleared, Patrício taking advantage with a looping header that evaded Paul Argney.
Quenda fired a low drive at Argney to end the first half asthe Equipa das Quinas went into the break with all the momentum.
Jean Luc Vannuchi brought on Ismail Bouneb for Nolan Ferro but it was Portugal who continued to take the initiative.
Portugal continue to create chances
Olivio Tomé’s shot was blocked before suffering a knee injury which saw the winger replaced by Rodrigo Duarte. The Vitória de Guimarães forward was immediately involved, hitting the post from an offside position.
Portugal maintained the pressure with Quenda looking most likely to break the deadlock, forcing a save from Argney from a tight angle with Duarte unmarked at the back post.
João Simões made way for Diogo Lobão in the 68th minute, Vannuchi making two changes up front as Daouda Traore and Mathis Lambourde replaced Gomis and Yanis Ali Issoufou.
Portugal continued to press forward with time running out. Duarte broke free but couldn’t get to the ball to an unmarked Patrício, Fernandes getting into the box where he dragged his shot narrowly wide.
End to end game
The game was becoming increasingly open with France going close to securing their spot in the quarter-finals, Joan Tincres forcing a save from Gonçalo Ribeiro.
Portugal’s best chance came in added time when Fernandes’ cross found Duarte, the forward unmarked but unable to steer his header on target.
There was an ugly melee after Bouneb went down injured and Ribeiro attempted to pick him up, the goalkeeper and captain unable to control himself with Portugal's campaign slipping away. France held on to advance, Portugal searching for the first plane back to Lisboa.
Hard lesson to learn
A number of Portugal's players were distraught and in tears after the final whistle. Family, friends, coaching staff and journalists offered support which will be required to help overcome the burden of feeling they let their nation down.
Gonçalo Oliveira was particularly overcome with emotion after the final whistle, the centre-back who had a tough time in the 4-0 defeat to Germany responding well by showing his strong character and leadership abilities throughout the game.
Once the dust settles it will be the achievement of being selected for the squad and representing Portugal that will be the overriding emotion and memory of the Hungarian campaign.
Dealing with elimination in an international tournament is never easy, but this experience will eventually assist these boys into becoming men and help them forge long lasting careers as professional footballers.
By Matthew Marshall at Balmazújváros Városi Stadion