World champions, France, dethroned the current UEFA Nations League champions, Portugal, on Saturday night via a N’Golo Kante goal in the League A Group 3 section.
The world champions were marginally the better side and had some good fortune but had Hugo Lloris to thank for the win, which took them to the final four of the tournament.
Going into Saturday’s encounter, Portugal were just ahead of the French side on goals scored but after an unexpected 2-0 loss to Finland last Wednesday, Didier Deschamps’ men responded with a better performance, as they should have been two goals up in the first half but for excellent goalkeeping from Rui Patricio.
But the Wolves goalkeeper was partly to blame for Kante’s goal on 53 minutes as he spilled a shot from Adrien Rabiot directly into the path of the Chelsea man, who finished from point-blank range. It was the midfielder’s first goal for his country in four years.
Afterwards, Deschamps said, “We deserved the win and we’ve fulfilled our objective of finishing top. I’m very proud of the players. They proved tonight that France are still a great team.”
In the other groups, Belgium will seek to tie down a semi-final spot when they take on England on Sunday in Group 2.
Group 1 sees a knockout contest between Italy and Poland, with the Polish ahead by a point while Group 4 will head to the wire between Germany and Spain.
Germany came from a goal down to beat Ukraine 3-1 with a brace from Chelsea’s Timo Werner, while in Basel, Spain’s captain Sergio Ramos created European history by winning his 177th cap for his country, even as he sullied his day with two penalty misses.
Luis Enrique’s side needed substitute Gerard Moreno to come on and save their blushes with an 89th-minute equaliser. This draw keeps Spanish hopes alive till next Tuesday when they must beat Germany in Seville.
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