Portugal 0-1 France: N’Golo Kante strike secures final-four spot and dumps Cristiano Ronaldo and Co out… ending their Nations League defence
- France took on Portugal in Lisbon on Saturday night in Nations League Group A3
- The first-half saw France on top, with Anthony Martial struggling to finish
- The visitors took the lead in the 53rd minute with N’Golo Kante tapping in
- Portugal pushed for a winner but some heroic French defending kept them out
- France have secured a final-four spot and dumped Portugal out with a game left
The winner-takes-all showdown between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and world champion France on Saturday was decided by one of the least likely scorers on the quality-packed pitch at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light.
Midfielder N’Golo Kante, whose prowess is tackling, not scoring, notched the only goal of a 1-0 win that ended Portugal’s bid to defend its Nations League title and sent the French into the final four.
Joining the fray in a crowded area in search of a loose ball or rebound, Kante was rewarded when goalkeeper Rui Patricio fumbled a ball into his path for him to finish off in the 53rd minute.
It was Kante’s second international goal in his 44th appearance for France. His other strike came in 2016 in a friendly against Russia.
N’Golo Kante scored the only goal as France beat Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon on Saturday night
The Chelsea midfielder tapped-in from close-range after 53 minutes to take a deserved lead
Portugal couldn’t break down the French defence and fell out of Nations League contention
France clinched a first-place finish in Group 3 with three more points than Portugal and the tiebreaker on head-to-head goals with one game to play. Portugal won last year’s inaugural Nations League.
France outplayed European champion Portugal and was denied a lead by half-time thanks only to Patricio.
‘Given the quality of the opposition, it’s of course one of our best performances of recent times,’ France coach Didier Deschamps said. ‘We deserved the win and we’ve fulfilled our objective of finishing top. I’m very proud of the players. They proved tonight that France are still a great team.’
Starting for the injured Kylian Mbappe, France striker Anthony Martial hit the post on the half-hour mark and had two more good chances denied by Patricio.
Patricio closed quickly to smother Martial’s attempt to tap in a great throughball by Antoine Griezmann in the 12th. Martial’s header from a well-executed set-piece hit the crossbar on the half-hour mark, and Patricio stood firm to block another tap-in by Martial of Lucas Hernandez’s low cross in the 41st.
Patricio kept his side in the match until shortly after the restart when he failed to keep his grip on a shot by Adrien Rabiot. Instead, he spilled the ball into the path of Kante to finish off.
Forced to focus on defending, Portugal’s playmaking trio of Bruno Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix struggled to get involved.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal drove forwards towards the end but ended up frustrated
Anthony Martial squandered some big chances in the first half as Rui Patricio impressed
Paul Pogba went close to a confidence boosting goal, put off by team-mate Fernandes (right)
France advance to the last-four having gone unbeaten so far in the 2020 Nations League
Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo was left seven goals shy of the men’s national team record held by former Iran striker Ali Daei with his 109 goals. His best chance came just before halftime when he headed the ball inches above the bar.
Portugal mustered its two best scoring chances once it fell behind.
Defender Jose Fonte almost equalized in the 60th when he headed off the post. France goalie Hugo Loris protected the lead by stretching to block a stinging shot by substitute Joao Moutinho with 15 minutes left.
It was Portugal’s first home defeat in a competitive match in six years. It had not lost on home soil under coach Fernando Santos.
‘We struggled a lot. France in the first half were superior,’ Santos said. ‘In the second half we got better. It was a different game and we ended up suffering a goal that was decisive.’
Portugal won last seasons Nations League but faced a tough task against the world champions
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