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Football Ironies: Why Portugal lost and France won – Euro 2024



Football Ironies: Why Portugal lost and France won – Euro 2024

Football’s ironies couldn’t be overstated as Portugal exited the Euro 2024 tournament in the most heart-wrenching way possible as they were eliminated by France on penalties, despite controlling crucial aspects of the game. 

The quarter-final clash in Hamburg brought together two heavyweights—Euro 2016 champions Portugal and 2018 World Cup winners France. Far from the dull affair many feel it is as there were no goal-fest worthy of a classic, however the encounter showcased flashes of excitement, tactical battles, and defensive resilience that kept fans on the edge of their seats.

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Contrary to their reputations for flair and attacking prowess, superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe had subdued performances. Yet, Portugal demonstrated attacking intent from the outset, crafting decent chances and maintaining possession. France, on the other hand, adopted a counter-attacking strategy, soaking up pressure and waiting for opportunities to strike.

Portugal v France LIVE: Score and latest goal updates from crucial Euro 2024  quarter-final | The Independent

Why Portugal lost and France won

The turning point came when Didier Deschamps introduced Ousmane Dembele. The Paris Saint-Germain winger brought pace and dynamism to the French attack, injecting life into their forward play. However, despite his best efforts, the deadlock remained unbroken.

Midway through the second half, it became clear that the match was destined for extra time and potentially penalties. In a surprising move, both sides withdrew their star penalty takers before the shootout. Roberto Martinez took off Bruno Fernandes at the 74-minute mark, while Mbappe, struggling with a broken nose, exited after the first period of extra time.

Throughout the tournament, France’s inability to score from open play was evident, with their two goals coming from an Austrian own goal and a Mbappe penalty against Poland. Nevertheless, their resilience and defensive solidity, epitomized by William Saliba’s commanding presence at the back, kept them in the game.

Portugal’s defense, led by the ever-reliable Pepe, mirrored this grit, ensuring the scoreline remained level. The match, while devoid of goals, was rich in intensity and determination, as both teams displayed defensive master classes.

As the game went to penalties, the absence of Bruno Fernandes loomed large. Joao Felix’s miss proved costly for Portugal, while France, showing remarkable composure, converted all five of their spot-kicks to win 5-3.

France beat Portugal in shootout to reach semis and end Ronaldo's dream |  Reuters

How Portugal could have won

The irony of Portugal’s exit lies in their control over crucial aspects of the game. They dominated possession, created more chances, and showed a clear intent to win. Yet, their inability to convert this dominance into goals and the absence of Fernandes during the shootout proved costly.

Had Portugal managed to keep Fernandes on the pitch, the outcome might have been different. His presence in the shootout could have provided the composure and accuracy needed to tip the scales in Portugal’s favor. Additionally, converting their earlier chances or maintaining their intensity throughout the match could have avoided the need for penalties altogether.

This quarter-final defeat will be a tough pill to swallow for Portugal, who will reflect on missed opportunities and the irony of losing despite controlling the game’s crucial aspects.