League of Nations: a revengeful French team wins against Portugal

Without Kylian Mbappé, but with N’Golo Kanté, improbable scorer, the Blues left their mark on the Portuguese European champions (1-0) on Saturday in Lisbon, offering themselves a ticket for the “Final 4” of the League of nations and an ascendant before the reunion at the Euro. In the Estadio da Luz behind closed doors, the French world champions eclipsed the giant Cristiano Ronaldo at the same time as the doubts that followed their indigent defeat against Finland (2-0) on Wednesday in a friendly. Three days later, with a team in World mode 2018, they bulged their chest against the Lusitanian cador, kicked out of a League of Nations of which he is the defending champion.

Didier Deschamps’ men, blocked by the Seleçao in the first leg (0-0), will play in October 2021 the final phase (“Final 4”) of the friendly competition of UEFA. But above all, they sent a strong message to Portugal before the duel expected on June 23 in the first round of the Euro. On Saturday, the France team had largely donned its 2018 World Cup clothes, with seven holders of the final lined up at kickoff, mainly in defense and in midfield. Only the attack line has undergone a facelift due to the absences of Mbappé, not recovered from a muscle discomfort in a thigh, and Olivier Giroud, left on the bench at kickoff.

The indestructible Antoine Griezmann was in charge of the animation with Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman, back in a stadium in Lisbon where he offered the Champions League to Bayern Munich this summer against Paris SG. Three days after the pale copy made against Finland, this team, as new as it is attractive, gave color to an enterprising France team, capable of delivering rapid and varied sequences of play in the tradition of a found Paul Pogba.

Kanté eclipses Ronaldo

The bright midfield pass from Manchester United to Griezmann (12e), himself the author of a subtle offering for Martial in the wake, set the tone for a first period where the Blues dominated the reigning European champions in ambition, ideas and, at least before the break, in scoring opportunities. But, on this action as on others, the French found Rui Patricio a formidable opponent. The Wolverhampton goalkeeper came out well in front of Martial (12e) who had the perfect opportunity to score his second goal in the jersey struck by the cock, on the evening of his 25e selection. The Portuguese also disgusted Manchester United center-forward by blocking one of his point-blank attempts with his arm (41e), ten minutes after a Martial header pushed back by the crossbar (30e).

Again, the world champions mixed talent and mischief: Griezmann free kick for Raphaël Varane off-center, head of the Madrid defender behind for Adrien Rabiot, acrobatic chisel from the middle of Juventus that Martial deflects on the upright. Gorgeous ! If the spotlight has long been on Martial, the light has come from the feet of Kanté, the discreet pocket midfielder converted for the occasion into a fox of surfaces. The Chelsea player improved a ball released by Patricio (53e) on a powerful shot from Rabiot, giving himself only the second goal of his rich international career at 29.

Ronaldo’s counter has a lot more (102 goals in 169 international matches), but the five-time Golden Ball has still not managed to score against the Blues. The Juventus striker tried his luck with a long shot (6e), free kicks (25e, 46e) and a head passed very close to Hugo Lloris’ cage (45e). And Presnel Kimpembe deprived him of a goal on a superb save (77e). In a breathless second period, the Blues were also saved by their post on a header from Lille José Fonte (60e) and by their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, impeccable on a strike from João Moutinho (75e). Talent and luck, the Blues were varnished.

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