UEFA Nations League champions Portugal were edged out by World Cup winners France in an evenly contested tie at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon on Saturday night. The only goal on the night came from the unlikeliest of sources, as N'Golo Kante scored from a rebound in the 53rd minute to seal the tie in favor of Les Bleus.
The French side, as expected, rang in the changes, hoping to put the shock 2-0 defeat to Finland in a midweek friendly behind them. On the other hand, Portugal were coming off a thumping 7-0 win against Andorra and were expected to fire on all cylinders in attack. That's not how the game turned out though, as Fernando Santos' side were beaten at home despite their best efforts.
Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman, who were handed rare starts after injury kept wonderkid Kylian Mbappe out of action, were lively in attack. Although a more clinical show would have pleased fans and pundits alike, experimenting with the duo didn't cost France the game at all, thus still keeping them in contention for a starting spot with a declining Olivier Giroud.
Similarly, Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot also shone in a rare outing with his national side.
On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were lackluster on the night. Coach Fernando Santos took a bold call in not starting Diogo Jota, who has been in fine form for Liverpool so far; he instead started two defensive midfielders and an out-of-form Bernardo Silva. In the end, it was the visiting side France who created the better chances on the night, with the scoreline reflecting that too.
Here are the player ratings from a high-stakes game, which by many was touted as a rematch of the 2016 Euro Final.
Portugal Player Ratings:
Rui Patricio - (7/10)
The Wolves' keeper made some fine saves on the night, denying Martial twice from point-blank range. But he could have dealt with the shot from Rabiot better and made the error which led to the goal.
Joao Cancelo - (6.5/10)
A decent outing for the right-back, who is slowly becoming the automatic choice over Nelson Semedo in the starting XI. Didn't offer much going forward and that may be a slight worry for the Portugal gaffer.
Jose Fonte - (6/10)
Defense has been Portugal's Achilles Heel for a while now and it was pretty evident on the night. Allowed space in the box for the French forwards, with Griezmann sending through-balls at will. If not for Martial's inconsistency, it could have been a much worse outing for the Portugal defender.
Ruben Diaz - (5.5/10)
Having played a pivotal role for SL Benfica in the past, a lot was expected from Portugal's mainstay at the back, especially when playing at Benfica's home ground. But Diaz wasn't at his best against one of the better attacks in world football. Heading into the Euros, Portugal need to plug the holes in at the back to be in with a chance of retaining their crown.
Raphael Guerreiro - (5.5/10)
The Borussia Dortmund left-back couldn't play his natural game in what was a cagey affair of sorts. Let Kinglsey Coman dribble freely on multiple occasions, which resulted in a couple of chances for the visitors.
William Carvalho - (6/10)
While the experienced midfielder did have a solid game, it probably wasn't the best choice to have started him as a right midfielder. Could have offered more centrally. Portugal have an abundance of talent, skill and flair in attack. Hence the aim should have been to build around that strength, not play an additional defensive midfielder, as seen in the last quarter of the match.
Danilo Pereira - (5.5/10)
PSG's latest recruit, on loan from Porto, was average at best, losing out on duels to Kante in the middle of the park. The sluggish nature of the match didn't help his case either, but he needs to make more decisive challenges to help start a counter-attack, something which the current Portugal side is best-equipped to implement.
Bruno Fernandes - (7/10)
Didn't have the usual impact he'd have liked, given his scintillating form for Manchester United. Looked a little fatigued, maybe the sheer number of games he'd played may have taken a toll. Not a worrying sign in any way, but could have put in a more decisive shift for Portugal in a crunch game.
Bernardo Silva - (4.5/10)
Going through a rough patch for his club currently, and the form seems to have spilled over to the national side as well. Barely made an impact against France and was rightfully taken off for young Trincao. Not in the same zone as the Nations League finals last year. Needs to rediscover his fluent free-flowing game, which has been a major absentee of late.
Cristiano Ronaldo - (6/10)
Had a couple of decent chances, which one feels a player of his caliber and stature should have buried. While it still is way too early to debate if CR7 is past his prime, given how challenging the year has been so far as a whole, his indifferent form in front of goal needs to be assessed carefully.
Joao Felix - (6/10)
Had a few half chances here and there, but looked out of position on the left flank. Didn't link up with Cristiano Ronaldo very well, which in-turn made Portugal stagnant in attack. Wasn't the best physically either, as he failed to trouble the likes of Kimpembe and Varane much.
Diogo Jota - (7.5/10)
The Liverpool No.20 is in the midst of a purple patch, hence his omission from the starting XI raised many eyebrows. Came on for William Carvalho in the 56th minute and contributed in attack, forcing Hugo Lloris to make a couple of saves. Deserves to be a regular in the NT setup.
Fransisco Trincao - (6.5/10)
The 20-year-old FC Barcelona prodigy was brought on in the 72nd minute for a fatigued Bernardo Silva and impressed in the minutes he got. Continued from the good show against Andorra in mid-week and showed why he is certainly the future of the national team.
Joao Moutinho - (6/10)
Came on along with Trincao as a double change to bring in some fresh legs. Did his job in the middle of the park, giving freedom for the likes of Trincao and Jota to attack. Forced Lloris into making a stunning save but couldn't stop Kante & Co. from ruling the roost.
Paulinho - NA
The SC Braga winger came on as a late sub for Joao Felix.
Sergio Oliviera - NA
Came on as a late sub along with Paulinho. Pretty much the last throw of the dice from coach Santos in the hope of scoring an equalizer.