World and Euro champs fire blanks

PARIS • With Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo squaring off, the first meeting between France and Portugal since the Euro 2016 final had been expected to be goals galore.

Except that the Nations League A Group 3 clash on Sunday turned out to be a damp squib.

World champions France drew 0-0 at home to European title holders Portugal in a cagey meeting at the Stade de France which failed to live up to its billing.

The paucity of chances meant either side could only manage one shot on target in the first half and it was a game in which both defences came out tops.

Ronaldo came closest to scoring in added time when his deflected shot was well saved by Hugo Lloris as the Portugal captain failed to add to his 101 goals for his country, just eight shy of the all-time international record held by Iran great Ali Daei.

Right-back Nelson Semedo said: "We have to be cautious in games like this."

Portugal coach Fernando Santos added: "We didn't score a goal but we weren't here to score goals... It's not always possible to create opportunities."

Les Bleus were equally cautious, with coach Didier Deschamps saying: "We can always do better, but given the quality of the opponent we took precautions and we did not see much of Ronaldo this evening.

"Our attackers struggled, sometimes, our movement was not good, at other moments, we could not make the final pass."

Only nine players who started that showpiece game in 2016 featured in Sunday's match, while only 1,000 fans were permitted inside the 80,000-capacity ground.

Elsewhere in France's group, World Cup finalists Croatia nabbed their first win of the Nations League campaign with a 2-1 home victory over bottom side Sweden, thanks to Nikola Vlasic and Andrej Kramaric.

In Group 1, Italy coach Roberto Mancini fumed over the "very bad" pitch after his team were held to a 0-0 draw at Poland.

The Azzurri, however, extended their unbeaten run to 18 matches as they remained one point ahead of the Netherlands, with new coach Frank de Boer still searching for his first win after his second game in charge ended in a goal-less away draw with Bosnia.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2020, with the headline World and Euro champs fire blanks. Subscribe