Portugal 0-1 France: N’Golo Kante sends visitors to UEFA Nations League final

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France advanced to the 2021 UEFA Nations League finals with a 1-0 victory over defending champions Portugal in Lisbon.

The visitors had the best of the first half as Rui Patricio was forced twice to rush from goal to make point blank saves from Anthony Martial. Portugal themselves could have taken the lead in the last minute of the half when Cristiano Ronaldo went from a corner just six yards away.

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N’Golo Kante put France ahead early in the second half when he hit point blank after Patrico parried Adrien Rabiot’s shot. Jose Fonte hit the post for Portugal soon after, and the French survived a relentless surge of pressure in the final 15 minutes to seal the victory.

France now lead Portugal by three points in Group A3, and will win this section no matter what in the final round of matches on Tuesday. The two teams will then face off in Budapest during the group stages of the European Championship in June 2021.

Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal – France

Image Credit: Getty Images

SUBJECT OF DISCUSSION

Can France add more titles to its collection? The Portuguese team brings back bad memories for France. Just four years ago, they were struck by a late overtime goal from Eder which defeated them in the European Championship final they were hosting. While that would have sent most teams into a long period of deep soul-searching, Didier Deschamps’ side bounced back to win the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Even so, he still has to harass the French that the delayed European Championship due to take place next summer does not represent an opportunity to emulate the great Spanish team of ten years ago which sandwiched their World Cup victory in South Africa with a return -back success at the European Championship. Instead, in 2021 they will have the chance to be the first European team to hold all three trophies available to a European international team at the same time.

Nothing is safe in this world at this time. The football schedule may need to be adjusted again, but if things go as planned, Deschamps’ side will be among the favorites to win the European Continental Championship this summer. Now, after that victory in Lisbon, they are the first team to advance to the exclusive four-team Nations League finals which will be held four months later. When Kylian Mbappe returns to a squad that has outperformed current European champions and Nations League holders tonight, France’s chances of securing one or both will only improve.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Antoine Griezmann (France): All of France’s best moments tonight were born from Griezmann’s feet. He was a constant problem for Portugal, floating in the gap between their midfield and defense to skillfully connect French attacks.

Kanté (France) v Portugal

Image Credit: Getty Images

RANKING OF PLAYERS

Portugal: Patricio 7; Cancelo 7, Fonte 6, Dias 6, Warrior 7; Pereira 6, Carvalho 6 Bruno Fernandes 5; Felix 6, Ronaldo 6, Bernardo Silva 5. Subs: Jota 6, Oliveira 6, Trincao 6, Moutinho 6, Paulinho 6

France: Lloris 6; Hernandez 7, Kimpembe 7, Varane 6, Pavard 6; Kante 7, Rabiot 7, Pogba 6, Griezmann 8; Martial 6, Coman 6. Subscribers: Giroud 6, Thuram 6

KEY MOMENTS

12 ‘- GOOD SAVINGS! Patricio saves Portugal again. France cut right in the middle of the Portuguese team, as Griezmann advances and slips a pass between Dias and Fonte to free Martial in the area. Martial tries to get Patricio to pass eight yards, but Patricio quickly comes out to block the shot with his foot.

41 ‘- EXCELLENT SAFEGUARD! France break menacingly on the left as Griezmann reunites with Hernandez. He shoots into a superb low cross into the six-meter penalty area where Martial slips to finish, but Patricio parades his effort again at close range and Portugal scrambles the ball for a corner.

45 ‘- CHANCE! Cancelo wins another corner for Portugal. Fernandes whips the ball straight to the six-yard line where Ronaldo goes up, but can only guide his head one meter above the bar. At least he should have hit the target there.

54 ‘- BUT! Portugal 0 France 1 (Kante 54). France is taking the lead! After a patient bout of possession, Griezmann found Rabiot on the right of the area with a nice reverse pass. Rabiot punches a shot in the far corner that Patricio can only parry, and Kante follows him to hit the rebound!

57 ‘- CHANCE! It could have been the match. Rabiot enters the space on the left and chooses Pogba with a magnificent cross. Just six yards away, Pogba completely loses his head and can only gently send it to Patricio.

60 ‘- OUT OF THE POST! After Lloris parried on a shot from 40 yards from Fernandes, Portugal passed it straight back into the box where Fonte crashed his head onto the post and came out six yards away.

75 ‘- GOOD SAVINGS! Ronaldo has been peripheral, but suddenly comes into life here; he dances for more than three hours on the right of the French zone before sending him back to Moutinho on the edge. Moutinho launches a fierce run to the upper left corner and Lloris dives from close range to parry the ball away from the goal.

KEY STAT

  • Kante’s strike in the second half ended Portugal’s 507-minute run without conceding a goal.

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