Football Features

Portugal 0-0 France: Les Bleus end penalty curse to reach Euro 2024 semi-final

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 23:00, 5 July 2024

France secured a spot in the Euro 2024 semi-finals after defeating Portugal on penalties in tonight’s quarter-final match.

In a tense game — this was only the second European Championship match on record (since 1980) not to have a single shot from inside either box in the first half — both teams created a couple of moments apiece in the second half, which could have won it for them.

A moment of individual brilliance would likely determine the outcome, but it was not to be in regulation or extra time, as the match ended goalless. Even before the dreaded shootout: four of the five Euro meetings between France and Portugal have now gone to extra time.

No sooner had the additional time begun than Cristiano Ronaldo blasted a shot into orbit from close range at Mike Maignan’s goal. He has now taken more shots than any other player at these championships (23), though is yet to score.

The game ended with 35 shots, marking the most in a game that finished 0–0 at the UEFA European Championship since England vs. Italy in their 2012 quarterfinal (45).

João Félix missed to give Les Bleus a 5-3 win on penalties. His effort hit the woodwork. French quintet Ousmane Dembélé, Youssouf Fofana, Jules Koundé, Bradley Barcola, and Théo Hernández all scored, while Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, and Nuno Mendes converted for the losing quarter-finalists.

The result was a watershed moment. It ended Ronaldo’s tournament, his final Euros, while breaking a 26-year curse. Before this evening, France had lost three shootouts in a row, including the 2022 World Cup final, since a triumph over Italy in their home World Cup, a game in which Didier Deschamps, the footballer, participated.

France are set to play in its sixth European Championship semi-final — against Spain in Munich on July 9 — with only Germany (8) ever contesting more. Furthermore, it has now reached at least the semi-final in four of the last five major tournaments (World Cup/Euros), failing only at Euro 2020 (round of 16). This is at least twice as many semi-finals as any other European nation since Euro 2016 (Croatia, England, Spain all 2).

As crazy as this may sound for a nation heading into the final four, there’s room for improvement. France has yet to score in its five games at Euro 2024 excluding penalties and own goals. No side has ever gone longer without such a goal in the tournament’s history, with Les Bleus attempting 86 non-penalty shots (7.25 non-pen xG) without scoring from one at this year’s finals.

Deschamps may be inclined to freshen things up after seeing 67th-minute substitute Ousmane Dembélé create more chances (six) than any other player in this match. The only other player to create as many after coming on from the bench in a Euros game on record (since 1980) was Cesc Fàbregas for Spain vs. Russia in 2008 (also six).

Dembélé was later awarded Player of the Match. “The substitute altered the game for France and maintained composure to convert his penalty. The forward’s speed and skill made him a continual threat,” the UEFA Technical Observer panel reported.