Euro 2020’s group stage draws to a close on Wednesday night with the culmination of the ‘Group of Death’, as France and Portugal clash in Budapest.
This is a rematch of the 2016 final, which finished goalless after 90 minutes, and both sides will be looking to ensure a favourable draw for the Last 16.
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The winner of this group – which France currently lead – will head to Bucharest for a likely tie with Switzerland, whilst the runner-up travels to London to face England and a 3rd place qualifier could face either Belgium in Seville or the Netherlands here in Budapest.
Les Bleus are in the driving seat for that ‘simpler’ tie with the Swiss, but will know anything but a win could allow Germany (who play Hungary at the same time) to swoop in and snatch top spot from them.
That possibility is more than enough to leave Didier Deschamps’ side ruing their missed opportunity when dropping points to the Hungarians on Saturday.
If France are disappointed about their Matchday Two result, the Portuguese will be reeling.
A 4-2 defeat to Germany in Munich, in which they were thoroughly outclassed, will have given Fernando Santos more than enough to think about.
A Selecao were exposed over and over again by Germany’s marauding wing-backs – with Nelson Semedo struggling particularly with Robin Gosens – and now that defense has to handle Kylian Mbappé and co.
The Man in the Middle
Overseeing this crucial group decider is Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who is well and truly the man for a big occasion.
He has shown only two cards in the two games he has taken charge of at the tournament so far, both going to Scotland, and will likely have a mind on impressing for a potential finals role.
Originally I thought this game could be an end-to-end thriller but, remembering what’s at stake for both sides (considering Portugal aren’t officially through) there’s potential for this one to be a little cagey.
The pair have met twice since the climax of the last iteration of this competition, with those games seeing a single goal across 180 minutes.
With that in mind, and given the context of this tie, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Portugal bed in and challenge France to break them down – asking Ronaldo and co. to do their thing on the counter.
A Selecao will look to get into half-time at parity, and the 21/20 about the sides being level at the break isn’t to be sniffed at.
The last three competitive ties between these two nations have been 0-0 at the interval (13/8) and, when combined with Portugal Over 11.5 Free Kicks, it makes a tasty looking 15/8 BetBuilder with bet365.
I actually would have preferred to back individual player fouls but the markets aren’t where I’d want them, so Portugal to take 12+ free-kicks appeals.
They’ve had 31 free-kicks in two games at the tournament, and average 14.7 over their last seven competitive fixtures.
France have conceded 30 at the tournament so far, and gave 33 away in their two Nations League fixtures against this opposition last year.
Another play I like at a slightly bigger price is Danilo Pereira to be carded at 9/2. The bruising midfielder committed five fouls against Hungary in the opener, and was definitely lucky not to be booked in that game.
Now, he takes on the most fouled player at Euro 2020 in Paul Pogba (9) and France’s plethora of attacking talent – which I don’t expect to bode well for him.
My final selections revolve around Chelsea superstar N’Golo Kante. I’m expecting him to have his hands full with Portugal’s counter-attacking football, and the energetic ball-winner to Concede/Win Over 2.5 Fouls is 6/5 with Unibet. He’s been involved in eight fouls at Euro 2020 so far, and has seen this land in six of his last seven starts at major tournaments.
Given that I expect him to be among the fouls, I’ll also be combining him to be carded with my play on Danilo for a 40/1 BetBuilder double at bet365.
Half-Time Result: Draw and Portugal Over 11.5 Free Kicks – 15/8 bet365 BetBuilder
N’Golo Kante Over 2.5 Combined Fouls Conceded/Won – 6/5
Danilo Pereira to be carded – 9/2 with bet365
Danilo Pereira and N’Golo Kante to be carded – 40/1