France 4-2 Croatia: “déprimé, ajusté, récompensé”

FranceDepressed, adjusted, rewarded. France has a new motto, at least in football. Twenty years later, Les Bleus celebrate another world title, and this time away from home. An achievement that lit up the work of Didier Deschamps, who joins the Brazilian Mario Zagallo and the German Franz Beckenbauer in the restricted lot of world champions both playing and training.


To understand this second French world title we have to go back to 2016. To July 10th, the day Portugal won the European Championship. No one wins before learning to lose, and France began to build this title two years ago.

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France 1-0 Belgium: A cohesion that justifies favoritism

Precisely two years after losing the final of the European Championship at home, against Portugal, France secured a new presence in a final, now to fight for the world title.

A header from Samuel Umtiti eliminated Belgium and decided a real chess duel between Didier Deschamps and Roberto Martinez. The game had few chances for goals but was tactically very rich, and ended up being decided by a set piece, a mark of this tournament.


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Uruguay 0-2 France: Mastery by the Uruguayan from Macôn

Just like in a movie script, the game between Uruguay and France was decided by the French player who feels Uruguayan. Antoine Griezmann did not even celebrate his goal, but he really was the “Man of the Match” in Nizhny Novgorod, where France assured a place in the semi-finals.

For the second goal it may be inevitable to talk about the incredible error of Fernando Muslera, but the merits of the French number 7 were mainly displayed in Varane’s goal, given the perfection with which he served his colleague via a free kick. To avoid Godin and Giménez’ aerial power, France bet on the anticipation. A poisonous approach from Deschamps’ team, who used an opponent’s weapon to put the game in their own favour.

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Portugal exit the World Cup with a strange feeling of being better

Two goals from Edinson Cavani lead Uruguay to the World Cup quarter-finals, and sent Portugal home with a strange feeling of being better.

Better than in the previous games, first of all, but the bar was so low that playing more effectively than in the group stage was insufficient to continue in the tournament. And Portugal may have left with the feeling that it was better than Uruguay, that they deserved another outcome, but that was the bitter conclusion reached by many of their opponents in Euro 2016 or this World Cup.

The truth is that Cavani’s first goal, with just seven minutes played, made Uruguay extremely comfortable. Sitting in the armchair, with a beer can in the hand, watching a World Cup match. Óscar Tabárez’s side retreated for the last 30 meters with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the edge of the area. And Portugal respected this request in the first half: they settled there, in the offensive midfield, but practically did nothing to bother goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Even with constant exchanges of positions between João Mário, Bernardo Silva and Gonçalo Guedes, the European champions were attracted to the outside and restricted to crosses, which was to Diego Godín and Jose Maria Giménez’s immense satisfaction.

Curiously, it was from a set-piece that Portugal scored the equalizer, at minute 55, with Pepe taking advantage of the fact the Uruguayan duo were more worried about Cristiano Ronaldo.


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Iran 1-1 Portugal: “trivela” establishes the natural order

At the end of the day Group B of the World Cup followed the natural order of things, but Spain and Portugal had to suffer a lot to confirm their favouritism and ensure passage to the round of 16. The decisive round had two draws and excitement right till the end, with VAR interference in two goals scored in additional time (with one in each game).

Spain secured first place with an Iago Aspas’ goal against Morroco (2-2), and Iran drew the game with Portugal through a penalty (1-1), The Iranians finished just one goal away from qualification (and also from winning the group).

For the first time in this tournament Portugal had more ball possession than the opponent (68%), but once again showed many limitations in organized attack. In the first minutes Fernando Santos’ team seemed more comfortable in that task, with William between Pepe and José Fonte, but Sardar’s individual marking withdrew influence to the Portuguese defensive midfielder, who is still the third player on the leader board. Read More

Portugal 1-0 Morocco: Ronaldo papers over poor performance

For many years Portugal charmed with a showy way of playing, but never conquered. Two years ago they presented unattractive football and went from draw to draw, but claimed the European title. Now Portugal seem to be playing even worse, but they have four points in Group B and are close to the knockout stage.

The game with Morocco was one of the worst in Fernando Santos’ tenure, but another goal from Cristiano Ronaldo (his fourth in this tournament) secured a hard-fought 1-0 win. It was an unfair result for Hervé Renard’s team, who became the first team eliminated in the group stage. Read More

Cristiano’s best performance with Portugal

Let’s keep it simple: Cristiano Ronaldo has had some special days with Portugal – July 10th 2016, for example – but this was his best performance for the country. In the most important tournament, against one of the best teams in the world.

Cristiano needed only one game in Russia to score as many goals he had scored in three previous World Cups, and became the oldest player to score a hat-trick at the tournament. He has now scored in four World Cups, something only Uwe Seeler, Pelé and Miroslav Klose can also say.

But there’s more: he now has 84 goals for Portugal and equalled Ferenc Puskas in 2nd place of national teams’ all-time goalscorers, only behind Iran’s former star Ali Daei (109 goals). Tremendous!

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