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Portugal vs France: Battle of superstars in a repeat of Euro 2016 final

Hours after a blockbuster clash between Spain and Germany, Portugal and France lock horns in another handsome-looking 2024 European Championship quarter-final tie on Friday.

With the stakes at an all-time high for Cristiano Ronaldo in his probably final Euros appearance, the 2016 winners will be eager to upset the odds in Hamburg.

Jan Oblak’s fantastic save to thwart Ronaldo’s penalty in extra-time of Portugal’s last-16 tie against Slovenia left the former Real Madrid talisman in tears.

However, the 39-year-old made amends by putting away a spot-kick in the shoot-out to help the Selecao secure a record-breaking eighth appearance in the tournament’s quarter-finals.

Despite this team’s tremendous attacking potential, Roberto Martinez’s side haven’t fired on all cylinders in Germany, drawing a blank in their last two outings.

Speaking of misfiring squads, France, who headed into Euro 2024 as joint-favourites alongside England, have yet to showcase their ‘killer instincts’ in the final third.

Yet to score from open play after four games at the tournament, Didier Deschamps’ charges continue to toil up front, with two of their three strikes being own goals.

If it’s any consolation for the Euro 2020 winners, Kylian Mbappe broke his Euros curse in the group stage, bagging a penalty in a 1-1 draw against Poland to register his only goal in seven outings in this competition.


Ronaldo keen to ride off into the sunset

Ronaldo infamously picked up a first-half injury in Portugal’s historic 1-0 win against France in the Euro 2016 final, which remains the Selecao’s only success in their last 14 games against the French (D2, L11).

As his trophy-laden career draws to a close, the all-time record scorer in international football seeks one final standout achievement to close the gap on his arch-nemesis Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo has yet to score at Euro 2024.

However, he assisted his ex-Manchester United clubmate Bruno Fernandes in a 3-0 win against Turkey to draw level with Karel Poborsky for the most assists at the Euros (eight).

In doing so, Ronaldo helped Fernandes uphold his incredible record of winning all 17 scoring appearances for Portugal, establishing himself as a talismanic figure for this squad.

Mbappe seeking redemption and place in the Hall of Fame

Ahead of his impending transfer to Madrid, Mbappe – tipped to be Ronaldo’s heir at the Santiago Bernabeu – is looking to add another major international title to his trophy cabinet.

The 25-year-old became the youngest scorer in a World Cup final since the legendary Pele when France thrashed Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 showpiece in Russia.

Four years later, Argentina deemed his hat-trick in the 2022 title decider insufficient, beating Les Bleus on penalties in Qatar to deny Mbappe a chance for redemption.

Heavily fancied to win the crown three summers ago, France crumbled at this stage at the hands of Switzerland, with the former Paris Saint-Germain superstar missing a crucial penalty in the shootout.

Any hope of erasing those memories would likely demand late drama, considering five of France’s seven matches at a European Championship ended level in regulation (W2, D5).

Portugal vs France potential line-ups

Portugal (4-2-3-1): Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Pepe, Nuno Mendes; Joao Palhinha, Vitinha; Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao; Cristiano Ronaldo.

France (4-2-3-1): Mike Maignan; Jules Kounde, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez; N’Golo Kante, Aurelien Tchouameni; Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe; Randal Kolo Muani.

Prediction

Given France’s notorious scoring woes, facing goalkeeper Diogo Costa could be a formidable challenge and undoubtedly increases Portugal’s chances of success.

The highly rated Porto stopper became the first keeper to save three penalties in a Euros shoot-out, crushing Slovenia’s dreams last time out.

Connoisseurs of action-packed football may want to look elsewhere as we expect this fixture to be decided beyond regulation, with the Selecao primed to take advantage of France’s underwhelming form.

Martinez’s side are in better shape and can rely on Ronaldo’s never-ending thirst for glory to help them navigate this titanic clash.

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