Euro 2024

Portugal v France Quarter-Final Tips: Mbappé to win battle of the stars

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez and captain Cristiano Ronaldo
Roberto Martinez mustn't allow Cristiano Ronaldo to completely dominate the Portugal team

Friday night brings us a fascinating quarter-final clash between Portugal and France, and Kevin Hatchard believes Les Bleus will progress...

Listen to Football...Only Bettor Euro 2024 quarter-finals podcast tips

Portugal v France
Friday 05 July, 20:00
Live on BBC One

Les Bleus serene rather than sparkling

France coach Didier Deschamps has often been accused during his long reign of not knowing how to maximise the potential of his incredible squads, and in the last decade it is probably Les Bleus who have had the greatest depth of talent in Europe. However, for all the criticism of the 55-year-old, it's hard to argue too much with his record.

France were beaten finalists at Euro 2016 and the 2022 World Cup, they won the 2018 World Cup, and it was only a collective moment of carelessness that saw them knocked out of Euro 2020 in the last-16. Generally, Deschamps knows how to put his teams in position to win major tournaments, and then it's up to them.

No-one's been blown away yet by Kylian Mbappé and company, but France have only conceded one goal in the tournament. While some might scoff at the fact that France's three goals have been a penalty and two own-goals, they have been consistently creating chances in matches, and the performances of the indefatigable N'Golo Kanté in midfield have been a major plus. Arsenal's William Saliba has been very solid at centre-back, having finally won Deschamps over.

Captain Mbappé produced flashes of brilliance against Belgium in a 1-0 last-16 victory, Antoine Griezmann has been willing to play in different positions in service of the team, and you sense there is more to come from both superstars. Both came into the tournament after incredibly strong club seasons - Mbappé scored 35 goals across Ligue 1 and the Champions League for PSG, while Griezmann produced 22 goals and seven assists in the UCL and La Liga for Atletico Madrid.

Deschamps was happy with the balance of his 4-3-3 formation against Belgium, and it is believed he'll stick with it for this game. Adrien Rabiot is suspended, so Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga could come in.

Ronaldo show must take a back seat

Even by Cristiano Ronaldo's standards, the goalless draw and subsequent penalty shoot-out win over Slovenia in the last 16 featured a display of extraordinary self-indulgence and drama. From the get-go, the 39-year-old was gurning, throwing his arms around and muttering to himself before launching yet more free-kicks over or wide. Having missed a penalty in normal time (a brilliant Jan Oblak save), he then did at least step up and convert in the shoot-out to help Portugal progress.

No-one can argue with Ronaldo's incredible record for club and country, and since taking charge of Portugal, coach Roberto Martinez has handled him quite well. However, the former Belgium boss had a serious case of "supply teacher energy" in the Slovenia game, watching on as Ronaldo dominated proceedings for good or ill. A strong hand was needed to hook Ronaldo for the good of the group, and had it not been for goalkeeper Diogo Costa denying Benjamin Sesko in a one-on-one and then making three saves in the shoot-out, Portugal might have tumbled out of the tournament.

As well as determining Ronaldo's future role, Martinez must determine what to do about 41-year-old centre-back Pepe. Again, his record is beyond reproach, but the Porto defender had some really shaky moments against the speedy Sesko, so the prospect of him trying to keep up with Mbappé, Thuram et al is a scary one.

Martinez isn't expected to make too many changes, and has no injury or suspension concerns. The likes of Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos are likely to be kept in reserve.

France can make the final four

Both of these sides are stacked with talent, but Portugal's performance against Slovenia raised serious questions at both ends of the pitch. Ronaldo has had a tournament-high 20 shots, eight of them on target, and hasn't scored a single goal. He is dominating an attack that would be far less predictable if everything wasn't channelled through him. Defensively, Pepe could have a really long night if selected.

France haven't fired yet, and there's an argument to say Mbappé dominates a little too much (he has had 15 goal attempts in three games), but they feel like a better balanced and better coached outfit at this stage. Deschamps overcame Martinez's Belgium in a huge semi-final at the 2018 World Cup, and I believe he'll get the better of him here.

I'll use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder to back France to qualify, Under 3.5 Goals and Aurelien Tchouameni to have a shot at a combined total of 6/42.50. Real Madrid midfielder Tchouameni got into some great positions against Belgium, and had four goal attempts. He had two against Poland and three against the Netherlands. I certainly wouldn't discourage you from backing him to have two shots or more at 13/102.30. As for the Under 3.5 Goals element, seven of the eight last-16 clashes featured fewer than four goals, and this should be another tight and tactical affair.

Captains to hit the spot

For better or worse, respective skippers Ronaldo and Mbappé do get the lion's share of their team's attacks directed through them, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see that you can back them both to have at least one shot on target each at 19/201.95 in a Bet Builder. Ronaldo has had a shot on target in all four games, while Mbappé has managed five shots on target across his three appearances.

Now read the rest of our Euro 2024 coverage here!

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