France and Portugal fight to break the deadlock in the League of Nations

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Portugal remain atop Group A3 of the Nations League after a 0-0 draw with France at the Stade de France.

It was billed as a heavyweight clash between the world and European champions respectively, but failed to ignite despite the wide array of attacking talent on display.

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Both sides struggled to carve out a clear opening, with Portugal coming closest in the first half thanks to half chances for Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix.

France grew and became the force majeure as the game progressed, but neither Kylian Mbappe nor Antoine Griezmann were able to unlock the visiting rearguard.

The result allows Fernando Santos’ Portugal to stay ahead of the pool on goal difference with seven points in three outings. France is second with Croatia four points behind the first two in third.

Next, in Group A3, France will travel to Croatia on Wednesday, while Portugal will host Sweden, in last position.

SUBJECT OF DISCUSSION

Defenses are applauded while superstars don’t shine. It had all the makings of a classic given the enticing front lines of both teams, but sadly it didn’t come to fruition. France scored seven points in their last outing against Ukraine, but struggled to break through a well-trained Portuguese defense. Indeed, he had echoes of the last time these teams met when Portugal snatched the win after a close affair in the Euro 2016 final on the same pitch.

Ronaldo almost won it with a free kick in the stoppage time, but he often found himself feeding on leftovers. On the other end, Mbappe and Griezmann threatened without showing a real advantage and at times the prep play was too complex on the hosts’ part as they failed to get revenge for that loss four years ago.

The draw means this Nations League group remains very close and may well be decided when the teams see the horns in Portugal again on November 14.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Presnel Kimpembe (France). The PSG defender kept Ronaldo and Co silent with an assured display. Made some important interventions and was dialed out by taking the ball out of defense.

PLAYER RATINGS

FRANCE: Lloris 8, Pavard 8, Hernandez 7, Varane 7, Kimpembe 8, Kante 7, Rabiot 7, Pogba 7, Griezmann 6, Mbappe 7, Giroud 6. Submarines: Martial 6, Coman n / a.

PORTUGAL: Patricio 8, Semedo 8, Dias 7, Pepe 7, Guerrero 7, Carvalho 7, Pereira 7, Bernardo Silva 7, Fernandes 7, Joao Felix 6, Ronaldo 6. Subs: Jota 6, Sanches n / a, Moutinho n / a, Cancelo n / a, Trincao n / a.

Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

24 ‘- PORTUGAL CHANCE. Super block! Hernandez throws his body on the way to deny Ronaldo after the Juventus forward took a sharp blow from Bernardo Silva and prepared to pull the trigger.

37 ‘- PORTUGAL CHANCE. Fernandes delivers a devilish free kick from the right that three Portuguese players, including Ronaldo, line up to convert. Joao Felix gets a touch first and can only flash wide on the stretch.

47 ‘- FRANCE CHANCE. Mbappe simulates the shot and turns in space to the left of the area, but sees his cut effort well saved by Patricio.

90 + 2 ‘- PORTUGAL CHANCE. Ronaldo almost wins it with a hard drive, but Lloris manages to keep him out.

KEY STATS

Hugo Lloris (117) became the third most capped player in the history of France behind Lilian Thuram (142) and Thierry Henry (123).

Despite the draw, Portugal have won only one of their last 12 games against France.

Fernando Santos surpassed Luiz Felipe Scolari’s record for most matches as Portugal coach (75).

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