France and Portugal end cagey Nations League clash in goalless stalemate

France and Portugal end cagey Nations League clash in goalless stalemate
Portugal's forward Ronaldo (L) greets France's forward Kylian Mbappe at the end of the Nations League football match between France and Portugal, on October 11, 2020 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. Photo: AFP
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Paris: France drew 0-0 at home to Portugal in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday in a cagey clash between the world and European champions which largely failed to live up to its billing.

The teams could only manage one shot on target in the first half, a hopeful attempt by Antoine Griezmann from the tightest of angles which stung the hands of keeper Rui Patricio.

Cristiano Ronaldo came closest to scoring when he fired a left-footed strike at goal in added time but his deflected shot was well saved by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Ronaldo also nearly scored in the first half but France defender Lucas Hernandez produced an excellent sliding block, while Ronaldo vented his frustration at teammate Joao Felix after the forward skewed wide as he met a cross which Ronaldo was waiting to turn into the net.

The result kept holders Portugal top of League A Group 3 with seven points after three games, while France are second, also with seven.

Croatia are third on three after winning 2-1 at home to Sweden, who are bottom with no points.

"We were very consistent defensively, but we lacked a goal. We had a few opportunities to score and didn't, but both teams were good defensively and offensively," said Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro.

Teammate Nelson Semedo explained his side's conservative tactics. "We've picked up a good result in a game where both sides would have made the most from any mistake. We have to be cautious in games like this," he said.

Portugal defender Pepe looked to have finally broken the deadlock late on when he placed a diving header in the net following a free-kick but he was ruled offside.

This was the teams' first meeting since Portugal's extra-time win over France in the Euro 2016 final but the game could hardly have felt more different, with only nine players who started that showpiece game starting the match on Sunday.

Only 1,000 fans were let in to the 80,000-capacity Stade de France due to coronavirus restrictions and neither side played with much urgency, looking content enough to cancel each other out.

France coach Didier Deschamps praised his side's defensive work. "We can always do better, but given the quality of the opponent we took precautions, and we did not see much of Ronaldo this evening," he said.

"Our attackers struggled, sometimes our movement was not good, at other moments we could not make the final pass."

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