EURO Classics: France 2-1 Portugal

A place in the UEFA EURO 2000 final was at stake in this genuine nail-biter – watch in full on UEFA.tv and get the background here.

Zinédine Zidane was the extra-time hero for France against Portugal
Zinédine Zidane was the extra-time hero for France against Portugal

Sixteen years after their semi-final epic at the 1984 UEFA European Championship, France and Portugal locked horns again for the prize of a spot in the UEFA EURO 2000 decider.

Watch in full on UEFA.tv


Context

Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2000
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2000

France were looking to become the first team to follow up victory at the FIFA World Cup with the European title and were catching the eye in Belgium and the Netherlands. Roger Lemerre's side had strolled through their group, only losing to the Dutch after sealing progress, and edged Spain 2-1 in the last eight. Next opponents Portugal had been no less impressive, however, Luís Figo and Co grabbing maximum points in their section before downing Turkey 2-0. Could they exact revenge for their 3-2 extra-time loss to Les Bleus in 1984? The stage in Brussels was set.

Key players

Thierry Henry: The pacy Arsenal striker had been France's top scorer at the 1998 World Cup as a teenager and was now starting to hit his peak, having just bagged 26 goals in his debut season with the Gunners – before adding two more to his international tally in the EURO 2000 group stage.

Nuno Gomes: Luís Figo was the starriest of the star names in the Portugal pack, but Gomes was the player who tended to supply the finishing touches. The Benfica forward – who joined Fiorentina after this tournament – had already registered three times, including both his team's goals against Turkey.

Portugal v France: Their EURO meetings
Portugal v France: Their EURO meetings

Zinédine Zidane: Where France's 1984 vintage had Michel Platini, their successors in 2000 had Zidane. The Real Madrid maestro was at the summit of his art in the Low Countries, dominating midfield with vision, technique and sumptuous passing – and displaying set-piece prowess with a superb free-kick against Spain.

What happened

France captain Didier Deschamps might have marked his 100th cap with the opening goal but could only shoot straight at Vítor Baía – a mistake Gomes avoided when he gave Portugal a 19th-minute lead, swivelling expertly to beat Fabien Barthez from outside the box.

The world champions had to wait until shortly after half-time to level, Henry firing low into the far corner from close to the penalty spot. And with Barthez keeping out a late Abel Xavier header, the game headed to extra time at 1-1, just as the two sides' semi-final had in 1984.

While that match finished 3-2 to France, the 'golden goal' rule meant that the next strike here would settle it – if one came at all. Penalties were looming when Xavier was penalised for handball in the area to give Les Bleus a chance electrified with tension. Cool as ever, Zidane thundered his penalty high into the net to steer his team into the final.

Reaction

Watch great Portugal EURO goals
Watch great Portugal EURO goals

Zinédine Zidane, France midfielder: "When the ball was on the spot, I didn't ask myself any questions. I had to shoot. We had played for two hours or so and my legs were a bit sore, but I knew I had to hit it hard."

Marcel Desailly, France defender: "We were not lucky. We did enough to show that we were the better team. We made the right substitutions at the right time."

Abel Xavier, Portugal defender: "Everyone is disappointed as we had started to change the image of Portugal. We showed that Portugal deserve more respect in the future."

Elsewhere that night

France's victory was the only EURO fixture of the day, but Italy sealed their own final berth in another tight game the next evening. Despite being reduced to ten men after 34 minutes, the Azzurri ousted the Netherlands on spot kicks after extra time in Amsterdam, the tournament co-hosts spurning two penalties in normal time and three during the shoot-out at the end of a 0-0 draw.

Aftermath

EURO 2000 final highlights: France 2-1 Italy
EURO 2000 final highlights: France 2-1 Italy

L'Équipe celebrated "A golden penalty!" the morning after France's triumph and there was more gold to come for Lemerre and his side as they clinched the title by beating Italy 2-1 in Rotterdam – David Trezeguet burying the 'golden goal' winner after fellow substitute Sylvain Wiltord had equalised late in stoppage time.

The misery continued for Portugal when they lost the final of EURO 2004 to underdogs Greece on home soil, but their moment ultimately came in 2016. And this time they added revenge over France into the bargain, overcoming Les Bleus 1-0 after extra time at the Stade de France to secure their very first major honour.

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