Portugal vs France – Cristiano Ronaldo conundrum and misfiring Kylian Mbappe

No open-play goals for France 

Portugal vs France - Cristiano Ronaldo conundrum and misfiring Kylian Mbappe

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Euro 2024 has reached the quarter-finals stage and two gargantuan clashes get the last eight underway today. Germany and Spain – the two top-scoring teams – face off before France play Portugal in the evening kick-off. 

Both sides were amongst the favourites ahead of the tournament but neither looked convincing in reaching the last eight. France have failed to impress throughout the tournament, finishing behind Austria in their group and they required a fortuitous deflected goal to edge past Belgium in the last 16. Meanwhile, Portugal required penalties to advance past Slovenia after a laboured performance which raised significant questions over Cristiano Ronaldo’s role. Ahead of the quarter finals, we’ve analysed both sides’ inability to perform at their highest level so far. 

Why is France’s attack failing to ignite?

Didier Dechamps has an abundance of attacking talent at his disposal but France have failed to truly click going forward. France have eight players categorised as attackers on Transfermarkt in their 26-man squad with a combined market value of €478 million – with five of those players valued at €50m or higher. But as the graphic below illustrates, France are the lowest scoring team left in the tournament with a measly three goals from their four games. 

Moreover, a French player is yet to score a non-penalty goal as Kylian Mbappé scored from a penalty and their other two goals were own goals. Deschamps is renowned for his conservative approach and although it delivered the World Cup in 2018, France’s misfiring attack at this tournament is a concern. Against Belgium, Deschamps deployed Antoine Griezmann from the right but that caused problems both in and out of possession, while Marcus Thuram has endured a disappointing tournament despite an encouraging first season at Inter Milan. Griezmann doesn’t enjoy playing wide and he lacks the pace to be a devastating option from the right but moving him to his preferred No.10 role appears unlikely as Deschamps has settled on N’Golo KantéAdrien Rabiot and Aurélien Tchouaméni as his preferred midfield three. Maximising Mbappe’s threat will be the key to France’s success against Portugal but Deschamps has failed to find the optimum formula so far. 

The Cristiano Ronaldo conundrum for Portugal

Despite progressing to the quarter-finals, Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance posed more problems than answers for Roberto Martínez. Ronaldo is arguably the greatest goal scorer in the history of football but he’s no longer at the peak of his powers. In fact, many believe that the 39-year-old is now preventing Portugal from reaching their full potential. 

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star was hysterical after missing a penalty in extra-time and that frustration was undoubtedly heightened by his inability to score so far in Germany. Ronaldo has attempted more shots (20) than any other player at Euro 2024 and his determination to score is often to the detriment to the team – as evidenced by his insistence to shoot from every freekick despite his poor record. Portugal’s squad is littered with talent with arguably the strongest depth at the tournament but Ronaldo poses the biggest conundrum for Martinez. The former Belgium manager hasn’t displayed the courage to drop Ronaldo so far with Gonçalo Ramos his natural replacement. Ramos, however, endured an underwhelming debut season at PSG, scoring just 14 goals and it’s a legitimate debate whether he represents a superior option to Ronaldo. It appears unlikely that Ronaldo will be dropped but Portugal can’t afford to carry their main goal scoring threat against a side of France’s quality.

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