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Match Analysis: Portugal 0-1 France

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look into France's narrow 1-0 friendly win over Portugal in Lisbon.

France ended a run of two straight defeats with a narrow 1-0 victory over Portugal in an international friendly in Lisbon this evening.

Both sides lost players to injury in an otherwise uneventful first half that saw Blaise Matuidi fail to make the most of the best chance.

The second half followed in a similar pattern, but a moment of magic from Mathieu Valbuena proved to be the difference as he curled home a free kick with just five minutes remaining.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at whether the visitors deserved to claim a 10th consecutive victory over their hosts.

Match statistics

PORTUGAL
Shots: 10
On target: 1
Possession: 42%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 14

FRANCE
Shots: 8
On target: 7
Possession: 58%
Corners: 3
Fouls: 13

Was the result fair?

Despite two of Europe's heavyweights going head to head, this was not the best match. Goalscoring chances were at a premium throughout, and both sides were guilty of not possessing enough quality in the final third. That being said, there is little doubt that France deserved to emerge with the victory today. Their performance won't exactly set the world alight, but they were the better team on the night for long spells and always looked the most likely to score.

Portugal may have had more shots than their visitors, but the majority of those were speculative ones from distance. Indeed, they only managed one effort on target throughout the whole game, and that came from a long-range Cristiano Ronaldo free kick in the first half. Hugo Lloris did not have a single save to make from open play and, in truth, his clean sheet was never seriously under threat. By contrast, France had two or three clear chances, only for their finishing to let them down.

The match was crying out for a moment of magic that might provide the difference, and Valbuena duly obliged with his late free kick. That was a rare highlight in what was otherwise a fairly dull affair, and it had another positive effect in that it got Portugal to show a bit of attacking intent in the closing stages. Three of their four corners came in the final few minutes, during which time they threatened more than they had in the previous 87, although that is not saying much.

Portugal's performance

Inconsistency has plagued Portugal in recent years but, with the exception of their shock defeat at home to Cape Verde in March, they appeared to be heading in the right direction under Fernando Santos. However, tonight was a worrying performance from a Portuguese perspective, particularly with things so tight in their Euro 2016 qualifying group at the moment. They offered very little in an attacking sense all night, with the French defence comfortably dealing with everything that came their way.

Unsurprisingly it was Ronaldo who came closest to and looked most like scoring, but even he failed to truly trouble Lloris. His frustration was clear to see at times, and he was given some lacklustre support from the likes of Eder and Nani, whose impacts were minimal. That front three were constantly chopping and changing position throughout the match as they tried to get some joy, but they never succeeded in posing France any problems.

Just one point separates the top three in Group I for the Euros now, and Portugal face a huge match away to the ever-improving Albania on Monday. If they perform there like they did tonight then there is every chance that they could end the international break out of the automatic qualification places. Fernando Santos will expect his side to turn it on more in a competitive match, but that is much easier said than done. Whatever happens, if they do make it to next summer's tournament then a vast improvement is needed if they plan on going far in France.

France's performance

It has been a pretty dire 2015 for Didier Deschamps and France so far. After one defeat in 15 games during 2014, they had lost three of their four matches this year going into tonight. Deschamps demanded an improvement from his side from their defeats to Belgium and Albania in June and, while he got that, there is still a long way to go if they are to harbour realistic ambitions of winning Euro 2016 on home soil next summer.

Defensively, it was all positive for France today. The likes of Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny were rarely troubled, while Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra coped well with the threat of Ronaldo. The midfield helped out in that respect too, and the visitors never really looked like conceding. However, there were more questions at the other end of the pitch, with Karim Benzema putting in an underwhelming display and the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Matuidi also missing some good chances.

Deschamps is still toying with his best XI and he has seven friendly matches left to do so. With so much depth at his disposal there are a number of different combinations to try out, but he will be keen to get something like his first-choice side together sooner rather than later. This was not a particularly bad performance today - they were on top for much of the match and deserved the win - but they will need to play better than this if they want to be successful next summer. They have the players to do it, but that winning formula is missing at the moment.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Paul Pogba: Arguably the brightest young talent in world football had another impressive game today. No player stood head and shoulders above the rest this evening, but Pogba's strength and composure on the ball stood out and he was involved in the vast majority of the good things France did in Lisbon.

Biggest gaffe

There aren't many to choose from in this category, so we'll pick on Nani for sending a dreadful shot high, wide, and closer to the corner flag when in a good position following a break led by Ronaldo.

Referee performance

Danny Makkelie dished out just the two yellow cards in tonight's friendly, and both were deserved. There were questions over his decision to award France the free kick from which Valbuena scored the winner, though, as Jose Fonte got the ball when challenging Griezmann.

What next?

Portugal: Portugal face a huge clash away to Albania when they return to qualifying on Monday.

France: France also take on a team from Group I on Monday, hosting Serbia in a friendly.

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France's forward Mathieu Valbuena celebrates his goal during the Euro 2016 friendly football match Portugal vs France at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon on September 4, 2015.
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