France set up Spain semi with shootout win over Portugal

Theo Hernandez struck the winning penalty for France after Portugal’s Joao Felix had hit a post in the shootout following a 0-0 draw to send Didier Deschamps’ side into a Euro 2024 semi-final with Spain.

There were no tears this time from Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been overcome by emotion during Portugal’s last-16 win over Slovenia, but, despite converting his own spot-kick, the 39-year-old’s final Euros campaign ended in defeat. He was left to console outstanding 41-year-old team-mate Pepe at the end of it all.

Cristiano Ronaldo consoles Pepe after Portugal's Euro 2024 defeat to France
Cristiano Ronaldo consoles Pepe after Portugal’s Euro 2024 defeat to France

Ronaldo was on the fringes for much of the cagey contest, although both sides will feel they could have won it in the second half of normal time. France’s Mike Maignan produced two sharp stops to keep out Bruno Fernandes and Vitinha before smothering Ronaldo’s follow-up backheel, while Randal Kolo Muani saw his shot blocked by Ruben Dias at the other end before Eduardo Camavinga scuffed beyond the far post from close range.

Impact sub Ousmane Dembele grazed a post in the final moments of the 90 but extra-time saw these two recent European champions err on the side of caution. A half-chance for Ronaldo was hacked over as Pepe and Dayot Upamecano celebrated blocks like goals.

France yet to score from open play

France have reached the Euro 2024 semi-finals without scoring a single open play goal. Their goals have come from two own goals and a penalty.

The major talking point of that extra period was Kylian Mbappe coming off at half-time, having sustained a blow to his face earlier in the match. France’s star man – masked and nursing that broken nose – must have been in serious discomfort to step off the pitch before the shootout but his compatriots were perfect from 12 yards.

Joao Felix was the only player to miss, whacking his effort against an upright, which presented Hernandez with the chance to send France into the final four and a showdown with Spain in Munich on Tuesday.

Ronaldo centre stage again – but was this his curtain call?

Cristiano Ronaldo takes on Theo Hernandez
Cristiano Ronaldo takes on Theo Hernandez

Even with superstar Kylian Mbappe on the pitch, attention is drawn towards Cristiano Ronaldo. His penalty shootout spot-kick summed up the theatre which surrounds him. The dramatic intake of breath. The staggered run-up. And the big celebration when he impressively thumped the ball in.

But while he may have played his part in Portugal’s two shootouts in the knockout stages of these Euros, his contributions during normal play have been less convincing. He was isolated here and spurned the half-chances when they did come his way.

Ronaldo goes goalless

For the first time in his career, Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to score at a major international tournament. He had scored at the other 10 he had played in.

With Portugal failing to link up in the final third, Goncalo Ramos – who famously scored a hat-trick when he replaced Ronaldo as a starter at the World Cup – and Diogo Jota were sat on the bench presumably wondering when they would get a go. The nod from Roberto Martinez never came.

The Portugal manager stood by Ronaldo until the very last. And perhaps this will be the final time we see him at a major tournament. His final Euros has ended without an in-game goal and a demonstration – to observers from outside the Portugal camp at least – that it is time to move on to the next generation.

It wasn’t pretty but France find a way through

Kylian Mbappe looks to get a shot away against Portugal
Kylian Mbappe looks to get a shot away against Portugal

So it’s not just England supporters who are lamenting their side’s lack of exciting football at these championships. France fans must be feeling exactly the same. Incredibly, Les Bleus have reached the semi-finals without scoring once from open play.

They rarely looked like ending that strange drought against Portugal.

Didier Deschamps’ side were so passive, allowing Portugal to control possession for long periods. When they did get the ball in the opposition half, there seemed little cohesion between what has proven to be a devastating attack in the past. Star man Kylian Mbappe clearly isn’t right – his substitution midway through extra-time indicated that. But around him there seems a lack of conviction or commitment to go for it from his team-mates.

Ousmane Dembele did at least show that required drive when he came off the bench and is surely pushing for a starting role against Spain. Certainly France, if they are to reclaim their European crown, will need to find some final-third spark at some point in this competition.

Team news

  • Portugal were unchanged from the shootout win over Slovenia, with Cristiano Ronaldo again leading the line.
  • Randal Kolo Muani made his first start of the tournament in place of Marcus Thuram, while Eduardo Camavinga took Adrien Rabiot’s place in midfield.

Tchouameni: We don’t care if we don’t deserve to go through

France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni: “We don’t care whether it’s deserved or not, we want to savour this victory. Not everything is perfect offensively and defensively, that’s true.

“We get beaten up, sometimes rightly so. But we’re not going to be picky, we’re in the semi-finals [against Spain]. Everyone can talk, you journalists too, you do your job.”

Pepe: It hurts to lose like that, we deserved more

Portugal defender Pepe told Record: “It hurts to lose like that. It’s hard to find words for what we did. We deserved a different result for what we did, but that’s football. Four days ago we were happy about the penalties and now we’re sad. We were smart in playing with the defined system, but that’s football.

“We had two games against Slovenia and the Czech Republic, who play in a low block and it’s difficult to face those teams. We tried to give them width. Today it would be more open with a different rhythm, just like Turkey, who wanted to play open against us.

“I wanted to continue in this competition. The hug means a lot… it’s not the right time [to talk] because it’s very painful and we’ll have the opportunity to talk about it later. I’ll have time to talk about my future, we have to get over this huge pain, we had the ability to win the competition, and now we have to lift our heads.”

Stats: Story of the match

Who plays who in the semi-finals?

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