Portugal and France have ten points apiece in Group 3 in League A of the competition, which means that both teams can still qualify for next year’s Nations League finals. In that respect, the Saturday game between the two heavyweights is likely to be highly competitive, as it could likely decide the group winner.
Both sides have a few key players unavailable for the game; nevertheless, there may not be a dearth of enticing player-duels on the field. On that note, let us have a look at five players to watch out for when Portugal take on France.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
In any game involving Portugal, the man to watch is usually Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite being 35 years old now, the Juventus forward has shown no signs of slowing down. This week, he was on the scoresheet in Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of Andorra.
His goal in that game was his 102nd in Portugal colours. Incredibly, Ronaldo is now only seven goals behind Ali Daei, who has scored the most goals in international football.
Daei's record certainly seems achievable for Ronaldo, and there would be very few to bet against the latter moving closer to the Iranian's record tally on Saturday.
Admittedly, France certainly would not be easy opponents for the Portugal captain to find the net against. They’ve got a solid defence and held Portugal to a stalemate when the two teams last faced off in October. The likes of Raphael Varane and Clement Lenglet could relish the chance to keep the great CR7 quiet.
However, Ronaldo has been in tremendous form of late. He has scored seven goals in his last six appearances for Juventus. That could make it a tough proposition for Didier Deschamps’ men to prevent Ronaldo from scoring again this weekend.
#2 Paul Pogba (France)
Arguably France’s biggest star in terms of reputation and pedigree on the world stage, Paul Pogba has largely struggled during the 2020-21 campaign. He has been in terrible form for Manchester United, finding himself left out of the club's starting-XI in last weekend's Premier League game against Everton.
In France's disappointing 0-2 friendly loss to Finland on Wednesday, the Frenchman was hooked after 57 minutes and replaced by Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.
However, it appears that France boss Didier Deschamps is still a believer in Pogba’s abilities. In an interview this week, Deschamps stated that the midfielder 'can’t be happy with his situation' at Old Trafford, and admitted that he 'needs to find his rhythm'.
Pogba fans would probably suggest that the midfielder is a big-game player. If that is indeed the case, France need him at his best this weekend.
The player has got quite the task ahead of him as he will be up against a midfield that will probably include clubmate Bruno Fernandes. If Pogba is able to rediscover his rhythm, he could definitely have a positive effect in Lisbon.
Either way, Pogba is definitely a player to watch in this game. If he has another difficult 90 minutes, it’d be hard to imagine him rising back to prominence this season, but a good showing could turn his 2020-21 season around.