France Into Semi-finals After Beating Portugal in Penalties in Cristiano Ronaldo’s Euro Farewell

France Into Semi-finals After Beating Portugal
France Into Semi-finals After Beating Portugal ( Credit: Getty Images)

In the penalty shoot-out, after a rough match, with few dizzying peaks and no goals, France became Spain’s rival in the semi-final in Munich. Joao Felix missed his shot, and it seems that he cannot find any ground in his long fall towards insignificance. Portugal was better on points, but Deschamps’s France has already collected many games won without deserving them. There they are, in the semi-finals with three goals in their favor, one from a penalty and two own goals by their rivals. Nobody gets more with less. And that is despite Deschamps finally daring to draw a diamond, with the concrete behind Camavinga, Tchouameni, Kante, Kolo Muani, and Mbappe in front.

Also Read: Spain Survives On the Wire and Knocks Out Germany

A France that, a priori, was more beautiful to watch. With the logic that a coach has to make it possible for his best players to be those who have the ball the most. Focused and feeling like the chief organizer of the attack, Griezmann monopolized the ball and passes, seeking to clean up the play. Mbappe also seemed to suit playing as a second striker. He was neither as isolated from the ball circuits as when he plays so close to the touchline, nor with as little ability to maneuver as when he plays as a header from the area. At his side, Kolo Muani was there to hack into the spaces and put his impressive physique at the service of the pressure.

If Deschamps was forced to bring on Camavinga for the suspended Rabiot and introduced the novelty of Kolo Muani to bench Marcus Thuram, Roberto Martinez came out with his routine eleven. It was Leao who pulled Portugal in the first minutes. He showed his powerful stride to Kounde a couple of times and warned the Barça player that he could have a night of work. Intermittent, Leao’s moments in games are devastating for his markers. The day he reaches a greater volume of interventions more frequently, he will double his value. Portugal was seen to be well-formed, with Palinha as an anchor. A tall midfielder, with good touch and always well positioned for the touch or the tackle. Mbappe also looked strident like Leao in a play in which he won the byline, but his cross back was intercepted by Diogo Costa. Everything was very measured. The first half was very tactical. Neither team wanted to spread out in attack. They threatened but did not deliver. Respect prevailed. Fear of creating a gap through which the tie could slip away. The first shot on target came around the half-hour mark. It was Theo Hernandez who forced Diogo Costa to intervene with a dry but focused left-footed shot. The scoreboards prevailed. France made use of its cement and its status as a team that is difficult to beat, a rock waiting for Mbappe or Griezmann to invent something definitive. Portugal argued its status as a well-worked team, with responses for all kinds of matches. This one had to be chewed up by an opponent that is intimidating due to the physicality of most of its players. In this sense, it was exciting to see the small and dynamic Vitinha handle himself between the Herculean Camavinga and Tchouameni. A couple of times when they tried to corner him, he came out the winner by withstanding the pushes with the ball stuck to his foot.

If France missed more activity from Mbappe, Portugal lacked the spark of Bernardo Silva and the greater weight of Bruno Fernandes. Without his two best architects, Cristiano was a wreck up front. He couldn’t get crosses to finish off and he’s not up to much else. He once decided to test his speed against Theo Hernández and the sequence described the inevitable passage of time.

The break came with the feeling that neither team had wanted to do anything too much. That excess of control seemed to break down at the start of the second half. The penalty areas registered more activity in the first quarter of an hour than in the entire first half. Cancelo slipped a pass to Bruno Fernandes and Maignan showed that he is the best French player in the tournament so far. Another sign that this France defends better than it attacks. He then confirmed this with another saving intervention. Leao, who had recovered, went past Kounde and gave Vitinha a chance to score. The shot from close range hit Maignan’s chest.

France struggled against that pair of warnings from Portugal. Kolo Muani had the goal after a one-two with Kounde and a powerful run that ended with a clumsy finish that went wide. Camavinga received a loose ball at the edge of the six-yard box that he crossed too far. He lacked the orientation and instinct that goalscorers usually have there. Cristiano still survives with that and could have scored if he had reacted sooner to a cross that ended up sending high. After those flashes, the duel returned to that contained landscape. With both coaches moving pieces for a match that was going to extra time irremediably. From the carousel of substitutions for one and the other, the departure of Griezmann at the hour mark was surprising. Even more surprising was that Deschamps sat Mbappe for the second half of extra time. In reality, France has reached the semi-finals without them.

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