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Euro 2024: France and Portugal struggle to qualify

The French beat Belgium 1-0 with a deflected goal, while the Portuguese needed penalties to overcome a fierce underdog in Slovenia.

Oblak and Costa greet each other before penalties in their tie.ZUMAPRESS.com / Cordon Press

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France and Portugal will ultimately in the quarterfinals of Euro 2024 as expected, but their paths were not without suspense. Didier Deschamps' squad managed to beat Belgium with a goal off a deflection when the dull match seemed headed for extra time. The Portuguese, meanwhile, needed penalties to finish off a fierce and defensive Slovenian side, who even had a chance to win the game in the closing moments of the second half of extra time.

France-Belgium disappoints

The most anticipated match of the round of 16 turned out, however, to be the most boring of the entire competition. The two teams seemed to fear losing more than they wanted to win. Shots on goal and even scoring chances could be counted on just one hand, and there were still some fingers left over. None of the stars of either team were even close to their usual level.

As it was, and when everything seemed to be heading for extra time, a French counter-attack ended with a shot from French substitute Kolo Muani that Belgian defender Jan Verthongen deflected into his own goal. It was the 85th minute, and the barely 10 minutes that remained of the game were by far the best of the match. Belgium showed that it had the ability to challenge its opponent, but its earlier complacency took its toll.

Diogo Costa beats Oblak in goalkeeping duel, Portugal goes through

The goalkeepers were the highlight of the entertaining match between Portugal and Slovenia. Aware of the superiority of their opponents, the Slovenians set up a game to either go to penalties or try to take advantage of a counterattack. The Portuguese accepted the challenge and put Oblak's goal under siege. The Atletico de Madrid goalkeeper even saved a penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo.

The move almost worked out for the Slovenians when a mistake by Pepe in the final minutes of extra time left Sesko alone in front of Diogo Costa, who managed to block the striker's shot with his foot. With no time for more, the Portuguese goalkeeper became his country's hero by saving three shots from the penalty spot, the first goalkeeper to achieve such a feat at a European Championship.