Portugal and France Draw 2-2 and Qualify in Dramatic Fashion

Never let anybody tell you that these Euro tournaments are predictable. On the final matchday in the group stage of Euro 2020, the teams with arguably the best squads in the entire competition battled for qualification. And, for more than an hour the underdogs were winning and the favorites heading home. France, Portugal, and elsewhere Germany, had lost points in their first two games. Now there was no room for error.

A repeat of the Euro 2016 Final, this duel between France and Portugal provided many more thrills than the match that gifted Cristiano Ronaldo’s side the trophy. Both teams had everything to prove and, for one of them at least, everything to lose.

Portuguese manager Fernando Santos opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation with Cristiano Ronaldo as the team’s lone striker. Santos also made squad changes from the previous two games. Joao Moutinho and Renato Sanches started in the central midfield area for Portugal. The latter had a particularly impressive game.

Meanwhile, Didier Deschamps kept the 4-2-3-1 shape that France have been using effectively for years. The biggest change was the switch of the two full-backs. Lucas Hernandez and Jules Kounde started the game, but both were error-prone.

France were the more attacking team in the early stages of the game. Les Blues looked to take advantage of Paul Pogba’s intelligent passes and Kylian Mbappe’s superior speed over wing-back Nelson Semedo. Be that as it may, the Portuguese had painfully learned their lesson in regards to man-marking following their defeat to Germany. At times the Portuguese required three men to take the ball off Mbappe and that’s what they did.

Against, perhaps, the flow of play, Portugal were the first to score. In the 27th minute, Hugo Lloris recklessly flew fists first in a bid to clear a floating cross. Instead, his elbow hit Danilo square in the face. A penalty was dictated and Cristiano Ronaldo coolly converted it.

If the previous decision had seemed harsh, the referee’s next choice balanced out the game. In the 45th minute, Mbappe crashed into Semedo’s shoulder and a penalty was awarded for France. Karim Benzema took charge of the responsibility and managed his first goal in six years for the national team.

With mere minutes into the second half, Benzema added to his tally. The Real Madrid striker’s excellently timed run past Ruben Dias left him with only keeper Rui Patricio to beat.

Meanwhile, news that Hungary were leading Germany back in Munich was making the rounds at the Budapest stadium. With things staying as they were, Portugal would be the only team eliminated from Group F.

There was more drama on hand, however. In the 58th minute, Kounde’s outstretched arms clipped the ball in the penalty area. Ronaldo once again stepped up to the spot and converted. With this goal CR7 finally matches Ali Daei‘s legendary international goals record of 109.

France and Portugal continued to battle it out with Deschamps’ side the more dangerous of the two. Still, the result back in Munich was once again becoming a pressing issue. Germany had managed to equalize, only to have Hungary score within mere seconds. With time running out, Leon Goretzka produced an equalizer that saved Joachim Low’s side from a fresh embarrassment.

With both matches ending in draws, all of the three group heavyweights qualify. This left Hungary, a brave team that has often overcome expectations, having to accept defeat.

One thing is for certain. France and Portugal will not play each in this Final once more. The teams could meet each other as soon as the Semi-Finals instead. France will, however, need to overcome Switzerland in the Round of 16, a task of which they seem more than capable. Ronaldo’s Portugal will take on Belgium, a much tougher opponent.

Whatever happens next, fans of France and Portugal will feel the consolation that their teams survived the fabled Group of Death, albeit neither one resembled would-be champions just yet.



June 23, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group F

SCORERS: 31′ Cristiano Ronaldo (P, pen.), 45+2′ Benzema (F, pen.), 47′ Benzema (F), 60′ Cristiano Ronaldo (P, pen.)

PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Semedo (79′ Diogo Dalot), Pepe, Ruben Dias, Guerreiro; Moutinho (73′ Ruben Neves), Danilo (46′ Palhinha), Renato Sanches (87′ Sergio Olivera); Bernardo Silva (73′ Bruno Fernandes), Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota (William Carvalho, Rafa Silva, Fonte, Joao Felix, Andre Silva, Rui Silva) Coach: Fernando Santos
FRANCE (3-4-3): Lloris; Koundé, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez (46′ Digne, 52′ Rabiot); Pogba, Kanté; Tolisso (66′ Coman), Griezmann (87′ Sissoko), Mbappè; Benzema (Mandanda, Maignan, Giroud, Ben Yedder, Pavard, Lenglet, Lemar, Zouma) Coach: Deschamps

REFEREE: Mateu Lahoz (Spain)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Lloris, Hernandez, Griezmann, Kimpembe (F); Extra Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 5′