Portugal primed for French test

Portugal and France will renew acquaintances on the first day of the Under-21 finals having met only once before in a competitive tie at this level.

Portugal and France renew acquaintances on the first day of the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals having met only once before in a competitive at this level.

• That was in the qualifying play-offs for the final tournament two years ago, when the countries were drawn together to contest a berth in Germany. The first leg was held at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes and it was Portugal who took the early initiative, Jorge Ribeiro giving the hosts a fifth-minute lead. Their joy proved short-lived, however, as two goals from Djibril Cissé, in the 23rd and 32nd minutes, turned the match in France's favour before half-time.

• That left the Portuguese with everything to do in the return at Stade Gabriel-Montpied in Clermont-Ferrand, although overall parity was restored by Cristiano Ronaldo's effort a minute before the half-hour. Once again, Cissé proved Portugal's undoing with his and France's third goal of the tie four minutes before the break, only for the striker to be dismissed three minutes later and Bruno Alves to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate with 15 minutes left. With no further goals coming, a penalty shoot-out followed where misses from Philippe Mexes and Patrice Evra allowed Ronaldo to convert the decisive kick and give Portugal a 4-1 victory and place in the finals.

• The two nations have regularly crossed paths at other levels, with the French recovering from a goal down to win 3-1 in the semi-finals of the UEFA European U17 Championship en route to lifting the trophy. France also prevailed in their only competitive encounter with Portugal at U19 level, in the Elite round of the 2005/06 tournament, by a 3-2 scoreline. Most famously, France's senior team have twice defeated the Portuguese in UEFA European Championship semi-finals before then taking the title. Michel Platini scored a 119th-minute winner in the 1984 event, while Zinédine Zidane's penalty 16 years later gave France a 2-1 success on the golden goal rule.