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Barcelona’s João Félix misses penalty as Jules Kounde’s France beat Portugal, advance to Euro 2024 semi-finals

Barcelona star Jules Kounde and his France teammates are moving on to the Euro 2024 semi-finals thanks to a 5-3 win on penalties against João Cancelo and João Félix’s Portugal on Friday’s quarter-finals in Hamburg. A tight, uneventful affair was decided with spot kicks after 120 minutes, and a miss by Barça loanee Félix was the decisive moment that gave the French the victory and set up a sensational semi-final with Spain on Tuesday.

There was very little action to speak of in the first half, with Portugal having most of the ball but doing almost nothing with it while France had a formation designed to defend and counter-attack but couldn’t create any danger on the counter.

Portugal’s plan mostly revolved around getting the ball to Rafael Leão on the left wing isolated against Jules Kounde, but the Barça defender won almost every duel and had plenty of help form N’Golo Kanté as well as the French nullified one of the opposition’s biggest threats and left them out of ideas.

The first half came and went without any real chances and very little quality despite a number of world-class players on the pitch, and all we could hope for at halftime was at least some entertainment in the final period.

The start of the second half was just as boring as the first, but the game finally came to life at the hour mark: French goalkeeper Mike Maignan made two outstanding saves one-on-one against Portuguese attackers, and Randal Kolo Muani had a certain goal denied by an amazing Rúben Dias block in a span of five electric minutes in Hamburg.

Eduardo Camavinga missed another big chance shortly after, and the game was finally open and full of action as both teams looked for a winner before extra time. Ousmane Dembélé came on and was a real threat for France on the wing, and Kounde had even more freedom to bomb forward from right-back to help Les Bleus create chances.

João Cancelo’s night ended with 15 minutes to go as part of a double change by Roberto Martínez, who sent fresh legs and pace on the right side to try and improve Portugal’s play as France began dominating the action. The plan worked initially as the Seleção wrestled back some control of the ball and moved their lines higher, but still couldn’t find a way to beat Maignan.

As we reached the final 10 minutes the two sides started to look towards extra time, and weren’t as aggressive with their pressing or attacking play. No real chances were created in the dying moments, and the final whistle of regulation came to send the tie to extra time.

The additional 30 minutes were as uneventful as it gets, with both sides clearly very confident in their ability to win it on penalties and not willing to take any risks apart from a chance for Nuno Mendes that was easily saved by Maignan. So after 120 minutes the final whistle came to end perhaps the worst match of Euro 2024 so far, and Spain’s semi-final opponent would be decided in a shootout.

The first five takers from both sides scored, including Kounde with a beautiful strike. Then João Félix stepped up and hit the post, and that proved to be the fatal error for Portugal as Bradley Barcola and Theo Hernández scored to end the shootout and send the French to Munich.

A blockbuster semi-final with Spain is now set, and France once again proved they do not need to play well at all to win big games in big tournaments. Portugal go out without a single good performance despite their favorites status, and big questions will be asked of Roberto Martínez after tonight.

For now the French will celebrate, and then meet La Roja for what could be a memorable semi-final on Tuesday.

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