UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE: France knocks out defending champions, Portugal

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France handed defending Nations League champions Portugal a rare defeat on Saturday, winning 1-0 in Lisbon with N’Golo Kante’s second-half strike to reach the competition’s final four at the expense of the holders.

Kante scored the only goal in the 54th minute to leave them comfortably top of the group.

France should have been ahead by halftime but Anthony Martial missed three chances, two saved by Rui Patricio and one hitting the crossbar.

Jose Fonte hit the post as Portugal pressed for an equaliser in the second half.

Didier Deschamps’ side became the first team to advance to the finals, which Uefa has pencilled in for October next year. Portugal won the inaugural edition on home soil in 2019 but now won’t be able to defend it.

Kingsley Coman replaced the injured Kylian Mbappe in attack as Anthony Martial was preferred to Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time second leading scorer. Paul Pogba was the only starter to begin the 2-0 friendly loss to Finland in midweek.

Jose Fonte replaced the vastly experienced Pepe, sidelined by a foot problem, in a Portugal defence that had not conceded a goal in five matches.

Coman forced Rui Patricio to tip over a firm strike as France made a bright start at the Estadio da Luz, with Martial denied by the legs of the Portugal goalkeeper after a neat ball through from Antoine Griezmann.

Martial’s only previous goal for France came four years ago, but the Manchester United striker was a constant threat against a Portugal side unbeaten in 21 matches at home.

Adrien Rabiot nodded wide from a corner and then inadvertently set up Martial at a free-kick when a header from the latter smacked against the crossbar.

Martial lunged to reach a dangerous Lucas Hernandez cross but was thwarted by a terrific Patricio block before Cristiano Ronaldo powered a header narrowly over on the stroke of half-time




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