Portugal coy about striker choice against France

Joao Felix
Joao Felix PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • Portugal may have a star-studded attacking force of Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota, but coach Fernando Santos insisted they will not all be unleashed from the start when his side host France in the Nations League today.

The European champions, also the reigning Nations League winners, and Didier Deschamps' side are tied on 10 points in Group 3 of League A with two matches left to play. Portugal are ahead on goal difference.

The "fab four" did not start when Portugal beat Andorra 7-0 in a friendly on Wednesday, but all had some minutes under their belts after coming off the bench.

"Only three of the four play, but I will not answer who will play," Santos told Portuguese broadcaster RTP.

Both Ronaldo and Felix scored in the final 10 minutes against Andorra when they were introduced into the game.

Juventus forward Ronaldo clinched his 102nd international goal and is now just seven shy of former Iran striker Ali Daei's record.

Deschamps, meanwhile, is counting on the return of several injured players when the world champions travel to the Estadio da Luz.

Les Bleus were without Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe, Kingsley Coman, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez in a 2-0 friendly home loss to Finland on Wednesday.

"It's going in the right direction," Deschamps was quoted as saying by French sports daily L'Equipe on Thursday after Finland ended their 12-match unbeaten streak.

Deschamps added, however, that he was "not sure of anything" concerning Mbappe and Pavard, who were out of the Finland game with a thigh problem and an ankle injury, respectively.

France and Portugal played out a dull 0-0 draw at the Stade de France last month, with neither team creating any clear-cut scoring opportunities.

The French did not advance to the knockout stage of the Nations League in its inaugural season, after they were beaten by the Netherlands, who in turn lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2020, with the headline 'Portugal coy about striker choice against France'. Print Edition | Subscribe