Portugal and France head into their quarterfinal meeting as two tournament favourites that few actually expect to win Euro 2024.

It’s a mouth-watering encounter, filled with superstars on both sides, yet both have struggled to impress – most especially in attack.

 

Portugal’s campaign has seen a lot of ups and downs as the Selecao started with two wins before suffering a shock defeat to Georgia and needing a dramatic penalty shootout win over Slovenia to reach the quarterfinals.

While Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes have found the net, their veteran skipper Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled in front of goal. The 39-year-old, playing in a record sixth Euros, had a penalty saved against Slovenia in extra time in the round of 16, prompting him to burst into tears of frustration.

Ronaldo scored in the shootout that followed, but questions have been raised over his place in the lineup as his goal-scoring powers are on the wane. The Al Nassr forward has taken more shots than any other at Euro 2024 (20) but has not scored in his last eight tournament matches.

 

Will Mbappe or Griezmann outdo Ronaldo to ignite title bid?

Pre-tournament favourites and twice world champions France have also been sluggish, failing to score from open play in the tournament.

France’s stalwart forward Kylian Mbappe scored a penalty in his comeback against Poland after breaking his nose in their opener, while France’s other two goals have come courtesy of the opposition.

France’s assistant coach Guy Stephan said Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann have been singled out for unfair criticism.

“We all downplayed Mbappe’s broken nose a bit,” Stephan told reporters. “It doesn’t explain everything, but the shock was traumatic. The mask he is forced to play with is not easy, it’s difficult for his peripheral vision.

“He also had a somewhat tiring end to the season. But Kylian remains a top, top-level player. There are times when these top-level players are a little less good.

“With Griezmann, we’re talking about a player who has 133 caps, who has scored 44 goals, who, until last March, played more than 80 matches in a row for the France team,” he added.

The misfiring forward lines of both sides need to spark to life for both sides, as the winner of the contest awaits Germany or Spain in the semifinal in Munich.

Friday’s contest will be a repeat of the Euro 2016 final in Paris when Portugal stunned the hosts to win 1-0 thanks to an extra-time goal from striker Eder.

France are looking for their third triumph, while Portugal seek to add to their solitary 2016 title.

 

FIFA ranking:

Portugal (6), France (2)

Head-to-head record:

28 games – 6 wins for Portugal, 19 for France, 3 draws.

Last five matches:
Portugal: D L W W W
France: W D D W D

 

 

Source:aljazeera.com

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