Portugal and France are set to battle it out in front of a packed Ferenc Puskas Arena on Wednesday in their final Group F encounter of the UEFA Euro 2020.
Curtains will fall on the group stages of the UEFA Euro 2020 on Wednesday night with a bang as France and Portugal square off against each other in Group F, in what will be a replay of the Euro 2016 finale.
Portugal, the reigning champions of Europe, kicked things off in style as they defeated Hungary 3-0 in their opening fixture. However, a 4-2 defeat to Germany last time out has left Fernando Santos’ men third in the group standings. A win on Wednesday would ascertain their qualification to the next phase while a draw would also be enough, depending on how the game between Germany and Hungary pans out. A defeat coupled with a Hungary win would see them eliminated.
France, one of the favourites to win, started off the Euros with a strong 1-0 win over Germany. However, Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw by Hungary in their previous game which threw the group wide open. Didier Deschamps’ world champions, currently top of Group F, are guaranteed to go through to the knockout stages even if they lose, thanks to the results in Groups B and C, although they will push for all three points in Budapest in order to top the group and build momentum.
Portugal and France clashed against each other as recently as November last year in the UEFA Nations League with the world champions eking out a narrow 1-0 win. Ahead of this mouthwatering contest on Wednesday coming our way from the Ferenc Puskas Stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Portugal boss Fernando Santos has no injury concerns heading into this crunch tie against France, with all his regulars fit and available for selection. A Selecao are expected to continue in the 4-3-3 formation on Wednesday with Rui Patricio once again manning the goal.
Senior defender Pepe is a certainty at the heart of the backline where he will be partnered by Manchester City’s Premier League winner Ruben Dias, who has had a tough run so far in the Euro 2020. With Joao Cancelo getting ruled out of the tournament, Nelson Semedo becomes the obvious choice at right-back while the dangerous Raphael Guerreiro should get the nod on the left ahead of teenage prodigy Nuno Mendes.
The onus of keeping a lid on France’s creative output will fall on the shoulders of PSG’s holding midfielder Danilo Pereira, who will most likely be supported by the hard-working William Carvalho. Joao Moutinho is also an option at the manager’s disposal should he crave more creativity from the centre to support Bruno Fernandes, who will be lining up as the No. 10 for Portugal.
Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota, who was on target in the defeat to Germany, are likely to continue out wide for the reigning champions of Europe, while captain Cristiano Ronaldo spearheads the attack. Andre Silva, Joao Felix, Goncalo Guedes and Renato Sanches are all potential game-changing options from the bench for Portugal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Patricio; Semedo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Pereira; Silva, Fernandes, Jota; Ronaldo
France, meanwhile, are likely to have Lucas Hernandez fit and available to start after he missed out in the last game due to a knock. Benjamin Pavard picked up a knock in the draw against Hungary but is expected to be fit as well. However, Ousmane Dembele has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.
Didier Deschamps is unlikely to make any major changes to the side that started against Hungary last time out, with captain Hugo Lloris being an ever-present figure in goal, protected by the centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe. Pavard should hold on to his place at right-back while Hernandez ought to come back on the left-hand side replacing Lucas Digne.
In midfield, the onus of keeping things tight will be on N’Golo Kante. The diminutive Chelsea superstar will be partnered by Adrien Rabiot, who will operate in a more box-to-box role while Paul Pogba will take up the third slot in the centre of the park and look to create openings for his teammates with his ability to make driving runs and play defence-splitting passes.
Antoine Griezmann, who saved a point for France against Hungary, will take up the No. 10 slot where he will have the freedom to rove around in the final third in hope of exploiting any spaces left by the Portuguese defenders. At the top, key man Kylian Mbappe is a certain starter for the world champions, with Karim Benzema likely to partner him yet again ahead of Olivier Giroud.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Kante; Pogba, Rabiot; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappe
- This will be the 28th meeting between Portugal and France. Out of the previous 27 encounters, A Selecao have won just six whereas Les Bleus have picked up 19 victories (D2).
- France are currently on a nine-game unbeaten run since a 2-0 defeat to Finland in November last year (W7 D2).
- Portugal’s defeat to Germany last time out brought an end to a seven-game undefeated streak. Since 2020, Fernando Santos’ side have lost just two of their 15 encounters.
Player in Focus
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Cristiano Ronaldo is averaging a goal or assist every 45 minutes so far at #Euro2020
Light work 💪 pic.twitter.com/sKTD6mCITv
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 22, 2021
Who else but the captain and talisman of Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo. While the team may have had contrasting fortunes in their first two games at the UEFA Euro 2020, the veteran Ronaldo has continued in his goalscoring, record-breaking ways, having netted thrice in his two appearances thus far.
Things, however, will get tricky for the Juventus superstar up against a French defence that showed great resolve and discipline in their opening game against Germany. Ronaldo will come up against his former Real Madrid teammate Raphael Varane on Wednesday and the winner of that battle could have a major say in the outcome of the contest.
Kylian Mbappe (France)
From an ageing legend to one of the brightest young superstars in the game, Kylian Mbappe will hold the key for France. The 22-year-old PSG forward is yet to open his goalscoring account at the European Championships but has been one of the best players for Les Bleus with his speed, movement and link-up play in the final third having caused a host of problems for both Germany and Hungary.
Likely to come face to face against a seasoned campaigner in Pepe, Mbappe has all the tools needed to get past the former Real Madrid defender, with his pace once again likely to be critical for the world champions.
Portugal 1-2 France
Portugal were in fine nick against Hungary and started well against Germany before a collapse. However, in France, they will be up against a team that rarely gives their opposition an inch at the back while posing a variety of attacking weapons in their arsenal.
Since losing in the finals of the UEFA Euro 2016, Les Bleus have faced off against A Selecao twice, winning one and drawing one. And they should once again be able to prevail on Wednesday by the odd goal, to finish at the top of Group F. Portugal, then, will have to hope for a Germany win against Hungary in order to stand a chance of going through as one of the best third-placed teams.