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Preview: Portugal vs. France

Sports Mole previews Friday's international friendly between Portugal and Euro 2016 hosts France in Lisbon.

Euro 2016 hosts France will continue their preparations for next summer's showpiece event by travelling to Portugal for an international friendly on Friday.

France have another friendly against Serbia on September 7, but Portugal's Euro 2016 qualifying process continues with a trip to Albania on the same evening.


Portugal

Portugal's forward and captain Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Group G football match between Portugal and Ghana at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 26, 2014© Getty Images

It would be fair to say that it has been a frustrating few years for the Portuguese national team, but things seem to be finally heading in the right direction under new boss Fernando Santos, who was appointed as head coach last September.

The 2014 World Cup proved a disappointing tournament for Portugal, who were eliminated in the group stages after only winning one match. They have a decent recent record in the European Championships, however, reaching the semi-finals twice, the final and the quarter-finals in each of the last four editions.

While the clash with France is a glamour friendly, Santos's side will be looking ahead to their next Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania next Monday. As it stands, they sit top of Group I on 12 points having won four of their group matches and lost once. That total has left them two points clear of second-placed Denmark, but Albania are also just two points behind with a game in hand.

Since losing 2-1 to France in a friendly last October, Portugal have won six of their seven matches in all competitions, with their only loss during that run a surprise 2-0 home defeat to Cape Verde in March of this year. Their last friendly was against Italy in June and Eder scored the only goal of the match in an impressive 1-0 victory.

Portugal will travel to Albania for what is a key Euro 2016 qualifier on Monday. They will then host Denmark and travel to Serbia in their final two Group I matches in October. The importance of the Albania clash simply cannot be downplayed.

Despite a strong run of form, Portugal's recent home record in friendlies is surprisingly poor – winning just two of their last eight home fixtures and losing three times in the process. Santos and his team have bigger fish to fry, but a clash with France will give them a good indication of where they are in terms of preparation.

Recent form: WWWLWW


France

French defender Raphael Varane celebrates scoring a goal during the friendly football match France vs Sweden on November 18, 2014© Getty Images

As hosts of Euro 2016, France have been able to sit back and assess their potential opposition as next summer's tournament approaches. A whole host of big names are being made to sweat on their spot, but friendlies will be about as strenuous as it gets for France in the build-up to the competition.

There is no question that Les Bleus will be expected to advance deep into Euro 2016, but recent results suggest that Didier Deschamps still has a lot of work to do. Since bowing out in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, the European nation have played 10 friendlies.

After losing to Germany in Brazil, they beat Spain, Portugal and Armenia in quick succession, while also picking up 1-1 draws against Serbia and the improving Albania. A 1-0 win over Sweden made it a strong end to 2014 for Deschamps's side, but results in 2015 have been slightly disappointing.

In March, they lost 3-1 at home to Brazil, but they did record a 2-0 victory over Denmark three days later. They have lost each of their last two friendlies, however, with Belgium 4-3 winners on June 7, before Albania won 1-0 on their own patch on June 13. They are far from disastrous results, but performances will need to improve in the months ahead.

Indeed, including this match, France have eight more confirmed friendlies before Euro 2016. They welcome Serbia next Monday and will also face Armenia, Denmark, Germany and England before the end of the year. As it stands, their Euro 2016 campaign is due to get underway on June 10, 2016.

Two-time winners of the European Championships (1984, 2000), France have been eliminated in the quarter-finals in two of the last three editions. They have also not made the final of a major international tournament since the 2006 World Cup, but on home soil, they will be among the favourites to claim the silverware next summer.

Recent form: DWLWLL


Team News

Anthony Martial of Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between Valencia CF and AS Monaco at Mestalla Stadium on August 19, 2015© Getty Images

Portugal are without the injured William Carvalho and suspended Tiago for the clash in Lisbon, while Fabio Coentrao has also missed out on a spot in the squad following a lack of pre-season football.

There are plenty of familiar faces in the party, however, none more so than Cristiano Ronaldo, who will win his 121st cap if he takes to the field. Indeed, the skipper is expected to start in an attack that should also include former Manchester United teammate Nani.

Southampton's centre-back Jose Fonte is also expected to start for the hosts, while Monaco's 21-year-old midfielder Bernardo Silva will also hope to feature from the onset.

In goal, 37-time international Rui Patricio should start ahead of Sevilla's 33-year-old stopper Beto.

As for France, new Manchester United forward Anthony Martial will hope to make his international debut. The 19-year-old recently completed a move to Old Trafford from Monaco and should be full of confidence ahead of the clash.

Martial is the only new name in an otherwise familiar squad. Hugo Lloris will start between the sticks for the visitors following his return to fitness, while Bacary Sagna's strong start to the season with Manchester City should be enough for him to earn a 50th cap.

The leading scorer in the squad is Real Madrid's Karim Benzema on 25 goals, and the forward is expected to be joined in the final third by in-form Antoine Griezmann.

Portugal possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Eliseu; Silva, Veloso, Danilo; Nani, Ronaldo, Quaresma

France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Sagna, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Matuidi, Pogba, Schneiderlin; Griezmann, Benzema, Valbuena


Head To Head

Since 1926, these two European heavyweights have faced off on 24 occasions. It has been a fixture utterly dominated by France, who have recorded 17 wins to Portugal's five, while only one meeting has finished in a draw, back in April 1928.

More recently, France have won all nine meetings since March 1978, but the pair have faced off just once since the World Cup semi-final in 2006, which France won 1-0 courtesy of a first-half penalty from Zinedine Zidane.

As mentioned, the two sides clashed in a friendly in France last October and it was the home side that prevailed 2-1 courtesy of goals from Benzema and Pogba, while Ricardo Quaresma was on the scoresheet for Portugal.


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We say: Portugal 1-1 France

It is always difficult to predict what will occur in international friendlies, especially when two of the biggest teams in European football lock horns.

We are expecting a tight game in Lisbon, with the points ultimately shared in a 1-1 draw.



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Portugal's forward Eder (R) scores the team's first goal against Italy's goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu (C) and Italy's defender Leonardo Bonucci during the friendly game Portugal against Italy on the Stade de Geneve on June 16, 2015
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