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Euro 2024: Spain and France qualify for the semifinals in dramatic dénouement

Hosts Germany lost after a great header by Mikel Merino at the end of overtime, and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal bids farewell after losing on penalties.

Midfielder Mikel Merino scores the winner at 119' against Germany.AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo and Toni Kroos crashed out of the European Championship on Friday in what was the last match for both players with their national teams in Europe's top national team competition.

Last-minute runners-up France qualified for the European Championship semifinals with a 5-3 penalty shootout win (5-3 after a 0-0 draw) over Portugal, in a close and rough match where goalkeepers Mike Maignan and Diego Costa were the stars.

Earlier, Spain, in a thrilling match, beat hosts Germany in overtime (2-1) thanks to a goal by midfielder Mikel Merino, who came up with a header at 119' to put 'La Roja' in the semifinals.

Now the French and Spaniards, who represent two of the strongest teams in the competition, will meet on Tuesday in Munich for the second to last round of a very evenly matched Euro championship.

France took revenge for 2016

In a match without much excitement from the offense, France finally got to taste revenge eight years after Portugal soured the Gauls on 'their' Euro 2016 by beating them in the final in Paris.

The Didier Deschamps team, which is still in contention for the title despite being disappointing with its play and offensive effectiveness, is basing all its strength on the defensive scaffolding and the solidity of Maignan, who was key today in denying the Portuguese side goals.

This "disenchantment" with attacking and flashy play is ultimately represented in their star Kylian Mbappé, who returned to play with the mask protecting his fractured nose and who was once again  involved very little, being even substituted during the overtime mid-point break.

However, Mbappé will have the chance to redeem himself in front of the Spaniards.  This is no longer the case for Cristiano Ronaldo, who at 39 years of age may have bid a final farewell to a tournament that he is playing for the sixth time and where he remained without scoring, after having done so on the five previous occasions.

In the days leading up to the match there was a lot of expectation about about a Mbappé-Ronaldo duel. This anticipation cooled down almost immediately when both teams played a murky first half, without clear scoring opportunities.

Portugal's Bruno Fernandes (16) and France's Theo Hernandez (20) had two of the few chances, in both cases with shots from the edge of the area, the offense´s dominant theme in the first half.

Then, in the second half, the match got livier around the hour mark, with Portugal initiating the feud. French goalkeeper Maignan saved his team on two occasions, first from a Bruno Fernandes cross in the box (61st) and then from a Vitinha attempt (64th). In between, Joao Cancelo shot just wide (62).

France responded with a great opening from Randal Kolo Muani (66), which Ruben Dias touched just enough to thwart the goal, and another with a cross-shot from Eduardo Camavinga that went just wide of the Portuguese post.

Ousmane Dembelé, who had come on shortly before replacing a once again missing Antoine Griezmann, for his part sent a left-footed shot that went just wide of the post (73).

Mbappé, in one of his very rare appearances, tried his luck with a long-range shot in the final stoppage time (90+3), but it was too soft, similar his overall play in the match.

In overtime, Portugal had the best opportunities to score, but failed to turn them into goals. Cristiano Ronaldo (94th) sent too high and Rafael Leao (102nd) was met by a providential Dayot Upamecano. In the 107th minute, Joao Felix headed into the side netting, chilling the blood of the French fans for a few moments.

The penalty shootout decided the winner of the match and there Joao Felix's own shot hit the post, giving the French their ticket to the semifinals, who had lost the last three times they had had to go to the penalty shootout in major tournaments.

Spain threatens both the hosts and Kroos

If the Portugal-France match was slow-paced and tiring, the Germany-Spain match earlier in the day was exactly the opposite.

In a very exciting match, albeit tough at times, Dani Olmo put the Spaniards ahead early in the second half (51st) and Florian Wirtz forced them into overtime when La Roja fans were already celebrating a semi-final berth (89th).

"It's a great pride, we have a great team, we fought hard! Now we have to enjoy and celebrate, but calm and chill, because in a few days we have the semifinals just ahead of us," said striker Olmo, who replaced the injured Pedri in the first half, after the match. The FC Barcelona player suffered a sprained knee after being tackled by Kroos just after the start of the match.

This surely leaves coach Luis de la Fuente worried, who in addition to Pedri, will also be without Robin Le Normand and Dani Carvajal (sent off for a double yellow in the last nanosecond of overtime), who will miss the match through suspension.

Germany's defeat, in addition to the elimination from 'their' European Championship, means a definitive farewell to soccer for Toni Kroos, as he announced a few weeks ago.

"We had this tournament as our goal and we have not been able to achieve it. The dream we had is over. We played a good tournament, but when you are so close, to be eliminated in this way is bitter," said the now former Real Madrid player.

After three years outside of the national team and a catastrophic 2023 for Germany, Kroos decided to return in March to play one last tournament with the 'Mannschaft.' "I'm glad I was able to help, I think we have managed to restore hope to German soccer and we have improved. The team will continue to do so in the future, even if we are very sad today because we would have liked to continue a little longer," said the 2014 World Cup winner.