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Heavyweights France, Portugal clash for a spot in the UEFA Euro 2024 semis on TSN


It was a strange sight to be certain.

Seconds after his penalty was stopped by Jan Oblak in the final minute of the first half of extra time in a scoreless UEFA Euro 2024 Round of 16 match between Portugal and Slovakia, Cristiano Ronaldo broke down in tears. Already a Euro winner and an all-time great who has won seven league titles, five Champions League crowns and five Ballons d’Or, the reaction from the 39-year-old Portugal talisman seemed outsized.

You can catch France vs. Portugal LIVE at UEFA Euro 2024 from Hamburg with coverage getting underway at 2pm et/11am pt on TSN1/4, and the TSN App.

The game would go on to penalties where Ronaldo made up for his earlier miss with a goal and Diogo Costa stood on his head to become the first goalkeeper to record three saves at a Euro in a 0-0 (3-0 on penalties) Portugal win.

Ronaldo explained his reaction after the match.

"Even the strongest people have their [bad] days,” Ronaldo said, once again fighting back tears and confirming that Euro 2024 would be his last. “I was at rock-bottom when the team needed me the most. Sadness at the start is joy at the end. That's what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments. I feel sad and happy at the same time. But the important thing is to enjoy it. The team did an extraordinary job. We fought right to the end, and I think we deserved it because we had more authority."

Now in his sixth tournament, Ronaldo will play in a quarter-final for a fifth time and it will be a heavyweight clash for the ages. Across the pitch will be Kylian Mbappe and France. A former Real Madrid icon going toe to toe with Los Blancos’ incoming superstar.

It’s something that isn’t lost on Mbappe.

"He's one of a kind,” Mbappe said on Thursday. “There will never be another Cristiano Ronaldo. He has inspired a generation. He has the goals, he has the trophies - his CV speaks volumes. I hope he is disappointed tomorrow, though."

Les Bleus enter the quarters on the back of a 1-0 victory over Belgium. While France was on the front foot for much of the 90 minutes, the Red Devils proved hard to break down. France finally breached Koen Casteels’ net in the 85th when Jan Vertonghen turned Randal Kolo Muani’s effort into his own goal.

France manager Didier Deschamps was happy to move on, but still rued his team’s missed chances.

“We had several chances, but missed the target,” Deschamps said. “We did a lot of good things. We have to savour it, it’s quite an achievement. We’re in the quarter-finals, they’re going home. We made a lot of progress, and the opponent was a little more cautious, even though on paper they’re an offensive, attacking team. We created more chances than Belgium did, we were on the back foot, playing a waiting game but wouldn’t fall into the trap they were looking for. We were firing shots but they weren’t on target ... we’re into the quarter-finals and that’s what counts.”

In France, Portugal has an opponent it knows very well. Friday’s match will mark the sixth time that the two nations have faced off at a Euro or World Cup. Most recently, the two teams played to a 2-2 draw in the group stage of Euro 2020 where a pair of Ronaldo penalties cancelled out a pair of penalties from former Real teammate Karim Benzema. Most famously, Portugal claimed its first major international honour with a 1-0 win over France in Paris in the final of Euro 2016 on a 109th-minute goal from Eder. All-time, France holds a 3-1-1 edge in major tournaments and a 19-3-6 mark overall.

"It’s not going to be an easy match; it’s the quarter-finals,” Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva said. “All the teams are here on merit because they’re very strong national teams. They’re the best eight teams in Europe. And we’re going to play against a team which, six years ago, were world champions and who were in another World Cup final 18 months ago. They’re a team accustomed to these things, accustomed to playing in the knockout stages, and they have a lot of experience. But we’re going for it, with the aim of qualifying for the semi-finals, because we’re a great team too."

Mbappe believes that France can’t view Portugal as the Cristiano Ronaldo Show.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a legend, but let's not forget the other players who are dangers,” the former Paris Saint-Germain forward said. “We need to beware all their players and not fixate on just one. When you ignore great players, that tends to cost you dearly."

Deschamps will make at least one change to his starting XI with Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot unavailable due to booking accumulation.

"It's not my style to make substitutions just for the sake of making substitutions,” Deschamps said. “It's true I haven't made many until now. The players on the pitch haven't shown signs of tiredness."

Both teams enter Friday’s match with a number of players at risk of missing a semi-final with another caution. For France, all of Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Aurelien Tchouameni are a booking away from a ban. Ronaldo, Francisco Conceicao, Joao Cancelo, Joao Palhinha, Pedro Neto and Ruben Neves will be banned for a match with one more booking for Portugal.

The winner of the match will move on to face off with the victor in Friday’s other titanic clash between hosts Germany and Spain.

POTENTIAL PORTUGAL XI (4-3-3): Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Pepe, Nuno Mendes; Joao Palhinha, Vitinha, Bruno Fernandes; Rafael Leao, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva

POTENTIAL FRANCE XI (4-3-3): Mike Maignan; Jules Kounde, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez; N’Golo Kante, Aurelien Tchouameni, Antoine Griezmann; Ousmane Dembele, Marcus Thuram, Kylian Mbappe