EURO 2020- PORTUGAL VS FRANCE: 4 THINGS WE LEARNED
SRINIVAS SADHANAND | 24th June 2021
Portugal vs France was the battle between the two outright favourites, going into Euro 2020 and you have to say, it lived up to hype. With a brace apiece from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, you can imagine there were a lot of talking points from a contest that had 4 goals.
Here’s 4 of them.
Renato Sanches was the answer all along to the questions thrown at Portugal’s midfield
Fernando Santos, we’re looking at you. Opting for an insipid double-act of William Carvalho and Danilo Pereira against Hungary and Germany, Santos got out of his comfort zone where caution reigns and finally started Renato Sanches.
If the Ligue 1 champion’s cameo against the sturdy Hungarians was a trailer of what was to come, his monsterclass against the French was the blockbuster you had to book your tickets for.
A ball-carrier extraordinaire from the middle of the park if there ever was one, Renato constantly drove with the ball like there was no stopping him, picked up the pieces every time Les Bleus infiltrated the spaces he was taking and was frighteningly complete on the night.
A maestro and a menace in equal measure, with and without the ball, there is a strong case for the Euro 2016 champion outshining the dream team in Kante and Pogba on the night.
Better late than never, Mr. Santos.
Paul Pogba is France’s outright best player
To some, this may seem like a sweeping statement after Karim Benzema’s impeccable campaign for Real Madrid and N’Golo Kante eating Europe’s elite midfielders for breakfast, lunch and dinner on his way to lifting the Champions League.
But if watching Les Bleus at the Euros has made essential viewing for you, this is a fact and not a statement. After a Man of The Match performance against Germany, Pogba was immaculate once again as the stage was set against fellow tournament favorites, Portugal.
France’s No.6’s enviable passing range is the world champions’ most potent weapon and when Mbappe is on his bike, that’s death by directness right there. Pogba’s through ball to set the Parisian prince through was a chef’s kiss moment.
And speaking of his gorgeous passing, the Manchester United midfielder’s assist to set up Karim Benzema’s brace was brilliant to the point that it just starts to get unfair.
Striking the perfect balance between the simple and the sublime, Paul Pogba exuded maturity even in an unfamiliar deep-lying playmaker role.
It seems you learn a thing or two playing alongside Andrea Pirlo.
With his brace of penalties, Cristiano Ronaldo has equaled Iranian legend Ali Daei’s world record of 109 international goals for Portugal. Simply, an incredible milestone that cements the Portuguese’s captain’s status as one of the greatest players of all time even more.
Ronaldo showed a lot of nerve, putting away his two penalties and at 36 years of age, he remains Portugal’s MVP.
Top-scorer at the Euros (5) when a player of his age is supposed to call it a day is Cristiano Ronaldo for you.
An exception to the rule at Euro 2020? A refereeing disasterclass
In fairness, Mateu Lahoz’s night to forget looks way bleaker, considering Euro 2020 has been the closest thing to the pinnacle of refereeing. Or so it seems if you love the Premier League because you grow to loathe the decision-making and rightfully so.
With 3 penalties awarded on the night, two quite simply weren’t. Sure, the first spot kick isn’t stonewall but ultimately, Hugo Lloris does make contact with the ball before connecting with Danilo Pereira. VAR’s involvement or lack thereof was extremely suspect, considering making the right call would have demanded the pitchside monitor anyway.
But this wasn’t the last of it.
After Nelson Semedo barely brushed his hand onto Karim Benzema’s face, Lahoz awarded yet another penalty for a decision that is inarguably not even a foul, let alone a talking point. We might as well make social distancing a law in the game if such farcical calls are made.
Mateu Lahoz was given his flowers after what was considered an authoritative performance in the Champions League final. Last night seemed like paying homage to the refs that yearn to be on the back pages.
Unfortunately, Lahoz’s reputation doesn’t precede this assumption.