Portugal 0-1 France: Les Bleus reach finals at holders' expense

N'Golo Kanté's goal sealed a place at the finals for France and eliminated the holders.

Highlights: Portugal 0-1 France
Highlights: Portugal 0-1 France

N'Golo Kanté was the unlikely match winner as France reached the finals and knocked out the holders.

Portugal vs France: as it happened, reaction

Match in brief

Rui Patrício took centre stage in the first half, saving superbly on two occasions from Anthony Martial. When the Manchester United striker did find a way past him, with a close-range header, the crossbar came to the Portugal No1's rescue.

The hosts offered more threat early in the second half, but it was France who promptly struck, Kanté turning in the loose ball after Rui Patrício had kept out Adrien Rabiot's drive. José Fonte headed against the bar in response, while Hugo Lloris preserved the points with a fine save from substitute João Moutinho's long-range effort.

N'Golo Kanté turns in the winner
N'Golo Kanté turns in the winnerIcon Sport via Getty Images

Carlos Machado, Portugal reporter

France grabbed a hard but deserved victory in Portugal in a match where they proved more consistent and dangerous, and Kanté's huge performance was crowned with the winner. After that, Portugal had some chances, including hitting the post, while Lloris was decisive when it mattered.

David Crossan, France reporter

France were excellent in every department this evening and all that was lacking from the display was a goal for Martial. It was a tactical victory for Didier Deschamps, with Kanté and Rabiot outstanding in midfield. Proving they can win a big match without Kylian Mbappé is a major morale booster for Les Bleus, who will take some beating in the finals.

Reaction

Didier Deschamps, France coach: "We deserved the win and we've fulfilled our objective of finishing top. I'm very proud of the players. They proved tonight that France are still a great team. Given the quality of the opposition, it's one of our best performances of recent times. The squad turned up and performed and I'm very happy for them because they have proved their team spirit and that they're competitors."

France celebrate topping the group
France celebrate topping the groupIcon Sport via Getty Images

Raphaël Varane, France defender: "I think it's the best match we've played in recent months. We saw a lot of good things in terms of our attacking play and in the way we defended as a team. We can be proud of ourselves."

Fernando Santos, Portugal coach: "We struggled a lot. France in the first half were superior; we were unable to play and connect the passes. Having no ball is more difficult. We were pushed back, we tried to react but very timidly and with little ability to progress up the field and find solutions."

Key stats

• France have won 15 of their last 19 games.
• Les Bleus have kept 15 clean sheets in their last 30 matches.
• The winner was only N'Golo Kanté's second international goal, in his 44th appearance.
• This was Portugal's first defeat in 22 home games.
• Portugal were unbeaten in their previous ten UEFA Nations League matches (W7 D3) before this game.
• João Moutinho became Portugal's second most-capped player outright in this game, overtaking Luís Figo (127).

Line-ups

Portugal: Rui Patrício; João Cancelo, Fonte, Rúben Dias, Guerreiro; Danilo (Sérgio Oliveira 84), Bruno Fernandes (João Moutinho 72), William Carvalho (Diogo Jota 56); João Félix (Paulinho 84), Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva (Francisco Trincão 72)

France: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernández; Rabiot, Kanté, Pogba; Coman (Thuram 59), Martial (Giroud 78), Griezmann

What's next?

17/11: Croatia vs Portugal
17/11: France vs Sweden