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France top their group
France will be ecstatic having topped Group F, which had come to be known as the “group of death”.
The World Cup holders going through in first place has meant that they will play Switzerland in Bucharest on Monday evening. Should they win that, they would go on to face the winners of Italy vs Austria, with Mancini’s Italy having appeared the side to beat so far this tournament.
France showed maturity to hold off a tricky Portugal side, with two Karim Benzema goals being cancelled out by two Cristiano Ronaldo penalties.
Portugal handed a tricky tie
On the other hand, the result sees Portugal finish in third place, handing them a potential tie against Belgium. The Red Devils will be no easy opponents given their form so far in the tournament.
BELGIUM VS. PORTUGAL 🤯
Who’s ready?!?!?! pic.twitter.com/6UMuBQmOEj
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 23, 2021
In a frenzied night in group F, Portugal looked at one point as though they were heading out, and realistically only victory over France would have given them an “easy tie”.
Ronaldo and co. avoided England more by luck than design, but will now face a Belgian side that is yet to lose at the tournament, and that will fancy itself in the round of 16.
Paul Pogba is key to France’s hopes
Among the long list of talent at the disposal of Les Blues, it is easy to see Paul Pogba as just another cog, especially if taken on his Manchester United form.
96/99 passes completed (97%)
9/11 long passes completed
3 chances created
— 2 big chances
He was composed and in control throughout. pic.twitter.com/vlBw7O5LM5
— UtdArena (@utdarena) June 23, 2021
However, for France, he appears key to their hopes of success this summer.
The 28-year-old midfielder pulled the strings at the heart of Deschamps’ midfield, carving out big chances for the front three of Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
For Les Blues, he seems the only player from midfield capable of playing a truly defence-splitting pass, something that France will need plenty of going into the knockout rounds.
France lose another squad member
France may have qualified in top spot, but they have been dealt another injury blow in the process.
Ousmane Dembele has already been ruled out of the tournament through injury against Hungary on match-day 2, and it was reserve left-back Lucas Digne who was the latest casualty for Les Blues.
The Everton defender went down just after the hour mark, with indications suggesting that it was a thigh problem.
— InjuryMechanisms (@IMechanisms) June 23, 2021
This would leave France short of natural full-backs, with Corentin Tolisso featuring in the game at right-back and Adrien Rabiot finishing the game at left-back, both of whom were natural central midfielders.
One more injury, and Didier Deschamps may be handed a severe headache.
Ronaldo matches another record
Already this tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo has broken the all-time European Championship goalscoring record, overtaking Michel Platini in match day one.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored more penalties (3) than any other player in European Championship history.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 23, 2021
As a result, in the melee that was Group F, one thing was always going to occur. Two penalty goals from Cristiano Ronaldo ensured that he moved level with Iranian striker Ali Daei as the all-time goalscorer at international level.
It was somewhat predictable, and while many will point to the fact that three of the five goals Ronaldo has netted this tournament have been from the spot, it remains a fantastic record for one of the all-time greats.
1⃣0⃣9⃣ International goals 🤯
Cristiano Ronaldo’s two penalties have equalled the all time record – surely only a matter of time until he breaks it! pic.twitter.com/q8YNEEIajC
— 90min (@90min_Football) June 23, 2021
Indeed, even with the penalties, the Portuguese veteran set a record, having now scored more goals than any other player in Euros history.
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