Tuesday , July 16 2024

Germany face Spain, France take on Portugal in thrilling Euro 2024 quarters


Hosts Germany take on Spain in the first of two blockbuster quarter-final ties at Euro 2024 on Friday, with Kylian Mbappe’s France up against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the late match.

Germany and Spain clash in Stuttgart at 1600 GMT with the host nation putting their hopes on the line against probably the best-performing side at the tournament thus far.

Spain, with the thrilling duo of Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams on the wings, have reached the quarter-finals with four wins in as many games, nine goals scored and just one conceded.

Germany, meanwhile, have also impressed on their run to the last eight, with Jamal Musiala outstanding in attack and Toni Kroos pulling the strings in midfield as he prepares to retire after the competition.

The match, a repeat of the Euro 2008 final won 1-0 by Spain in Vienna, therefore promises to be a thriller.

“My focus is less on Yamal, more on Jamal,” Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said Thursday as he compared the two opposing stars and indicated that his team planned to take the game to the Spanish.

“We can do something in attack ourselves. We want to attack and make life difficult for them.”

The match would have been a fitting final given both teams’ current form and their historical standing — the nations are the most successful in the history of the European Championship with three titles each.

They also met in the group stage at the 2022 World Cup, playing out a 1-1 draw that contributed to Germany being eliminated in the first round.

“Three wins away from immortality” was the headline in Thursday’s edition of Kicker, the popular German football magazine, yet the host nation’s dream of winning the trophy in Berlin on July 14 could also end here.

Spain have perhaps the world’s best holding midfield player in Rodri, but their coach, Luis de la Fuente, admitted they are wary of the brilliance of Kroos.

“We thought about tying Kroos’s feet together, but I’m not sure if UEFA will let me,” he joked.

“We know how Kroos behaves. We will try and make sure he doesn’t have the chance to receive the ball and will limit his passing options.”

The winners of that match will advance to a semi-final against either France or Portugal, who go head-to-head in Hamburg at 1900 GMT.

It is another heavyweight clash between two much-fancied sides, as well as a repeat of the Euro 2016 final, when Portugal beat France 1-0 in extra time in Paris.

France have reached a sixth quarter-final in the last seven major tournaments despite not one of their players scoring in open play.

Mbappe meets idol Ronaldo

Les Bleus have netted only three times in four games, with one a penalty by Mbappe and the other two coming from own goals, including Jan Vertonghen’s which allowed them to beat Belgium in the last 16.

Mbappe has been hindered by a broken nose, which saw him miss one group game before returning to action while wearing a protective face mask. He also suggested on Thursday that he is not currently fully fit.

“I don’t think I’m fully fit. It’s not an excuse, but I think to be really at 100 percent, explosive and fast, I need a proper pre-season with my club,” he said.

Mbappe, who recently signed for Real Madrid, will come up against his boyhood idol in Ronaldo, the Portugal captain who is now 39.

“It is an honor. Everyone knows how much I have always admired Cristiano,” Mbappe, 25, said.

“Whatever has happened before or will happen after, he will remain a legend in the game, but of course, we hope to win tomorrow and get through to the semi-final.”

Ronaldo is enduring a difficult tournament, failing to find the net and ending up in tears after missing a penalty in the last-16 tie against Slovenia from which Portugal squeezed through on penalties.

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, insisted the focus cannot solely be on the two opposing superstars.

“Football is a team sport. Tomorrow is not a match between two individuals. They are two incredible players who have a big influence on the game worldwide, and that influence will continue, but tomorrow we will need a real top-level team performance if we are to win,” Martinez said.

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