Portugal host France at the Estadio da Luz on Saturday night as the current European Champions take on the current World Champions in the UEFA Nations League. Fernandos Santos’ side were the inaugural winners of this tournament and currently sit top of group 3 ahead of France on goal difference. Portugal famously beat France 1-0 at the Stade de France in the Euro 2016 final and these sides drew 0-0 in Paris a month ago. Another close match is expected here.
Portugal have lost just one of their last 18 competitive matches, a UEFA Championship 2020 qualifying defeat to Ukraine more than a year ago. Their form in the UEFA Nations League has been very strong as they beat Croatia 4-1 and Sweden 3-0 at home and won 2-0 away to Sweden and drew 0-0 away against France.
The side have conceded just one goal in their last seven matches (six competitive games, one friendly) and with Joao Felix, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota in their attack, they are a formidable side. On Wednesday, they beat Andorra 7-0.
Portugal Team News
Fernandos Santos has an incredible squad at his disposal built on the solid foundations of Manchester City’s Ruben Dias and 37-year-old, Pepe. However, the latter has a foot injury and has not been named in the squad so Jose Fonte or Ruben Semedo could take his place. Cristiano Ronaldo is back in the Seleção setup after Covid-19 ruled him out of the last international game against Sweden.
The biggest dilemma for Santos is how to fit Diego Jota into his starting XI if Ronaldo is fit as the new Liverpool man has been on fire at club level and he scored twice in the 3-0 victory against Sweden.
At home, Portugal will play to win the game but they know that a draw would keep them top of the standings. However, with a trip to Croatia to follow on Tuesday (whilst France host a Sweden team who has lost every game), they know a draw in Split could see Portugal fail to qualify for the semi-finals. Therefore, they can’t settle for a draw here and need to play to win.
Didier Deschamps’ side have been in outstanding form for several years. They have lost just 2 of their last 33 matches and are currently 12 games unbeaten, winning 10 of those. The only sides to avoid defeat to Les Bleus in that time have been Turkey and Portugal.
In the current UEFA Nations League, France won 1-0 against Sweden and 2-1 against Croatia in their away matches whilst they beat Croatia 4-2 and drew 0-0 with Portugal in their two home clashes so far. Surprisingly, France lost 1-0 to Finland on Wednesday in a friendly with a second-string side.
France Team News
Didier Deschamps handed a first cap to Lillian Thuram’s son, Marcus on Wednesday against Finland. The Borussia Mönchengladbach forward got a brace against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League recently. Also recalled are Paul Pogba – who Deschamps says is not happy with his game time or position at Manchester United – and Kurt Zouma, who has excelled for Chelsea this season. Dayot Upamecano has dropped down to France under 21 squad.
For Deschamps, the biggest choice is over whether to use Pogba in his game or whether more solid options like Steven Nzonzi or Moussa Sissoko will be preferred. In attack, it will be a tough choice over who partners Kylian Mbappé as Olivier Giroud has not been playing much at club level. Anthony Martial could therefore get the nod.
France need to win this game to put the group back in their own hands. A victory would mean that they are three points clear of Portugal and would only need a draw at home to Sweden to finish top. A draw would not be a terrible result but would require Croatia to take points off Portugal on Tuesday.
Portugal are 7 matches unbeaten, winning 5 (includes friendlies)
A Seleção have conceded 1 goal in their last 7 matches (includes friendlies)
France have lost 2 of their last 33 matches (includes friendlies)
Les Bleus are 12 games unbeaten (10 wins)(includes friendlies)
France have seen under 2.5 in 3 of their last 5 competitive games
Portugal have seen under 2.5 goals in 4 of their last 6 matches
This looks likely to be a very tight and cagey game with Portugal so strong at the back and France generally more of a counter attacking team under Didier Deschamps. I suspect this game will end level and be low scoring.