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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Ronaldo’s record-equalling goals to Benzema’s double blow: Defending Champions survive ‘Group of Death’

Ending with a 2-2 finish, a dramatic evening in Budapest saw both France and Portugal through to the Round of 16.

Written by Ahaan Bhansali |
Updated: June 24, 2021 10:59:37 am
cristiano ronaldo, cristiano ronaldo ali daei record, portugal vs france euro 2020, karim benzema vs portugal, Euro 2020 group f, euro 2020 group stage qualifiersFrance's Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe react as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo waits to take a penalty (Reuters)

The UEFA Euro Cup 2020 saw Group F aka ‘The Group of Death’ live up to its name late Wednesday evening in an intense showdown at the Puskás Aréna, Budapest. Defending champions Portugal took on World Cup winners France, but a 2-2 draw saw both teams follow Germany into the much-anticipated Round of 16. Here are some key moments from the game:

Ronaldo sends Portugal to the top

As Portugal’s João Moutinho curled in a freekick, captain Hugo Lloris came off his line to punch the ball out. At the same time, Lloris caught Danilo in the face, who immediately fell to the ground, and was seen writhing in the penalty box for several minutes. Lloris was booked, and in a highly controversial decision, Portugal was awarded a penalty just 27 minutes into the game. In an iconic moment, Cristiano Ronaldo sent Lloris the wrong way, drilling the ball into the left corner. Ronaldo has made history with every match this season and already stands as the all-time highest goalscorer at the Euros. With this penalty, Ronaldo sent Portugal to the top of the Group F table.

Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal vs France, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Euro 2020 championship group F match between Portugal and France at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Bernadett Szabo, Pool photo via AP)

Benzema’s Equalizer

As the game neared the end of the first half, there seemed to be more action- this time at Portugal’s end. In what seemed to initially be a soft challenge, Portugal’s right-back Nélson Semedo sent Mbappe to the ground meters away from the goal. Spanish referee Antonio Lahoz immediately awarded France a highly controversial penalty, and it was Portugal’s turn to complain now, as red shirts swarmed around the referee in agitation. There was a VAR check, but the referee’s call prevailed, bringing new hope to the French side. Karim Benzema stepped up to take the pen, and a stunning finish provided France with a much-needed equalizer. Benzema registered his first-ever goal in a European Championship, and a complete shift in ‘The Group of Death’ dynamics sent World Champions, France, back to the top a minute before half-time.

Goal or no goal?

Pogba played a beautifully weighted ball in behind Benzema just minutes into the second half. In a dramatic moment, Benzema sent the ball wide of Patricio, finishing into the far corner from 8 yards out. However, his celebrations were short-lived as the flag for offside went up with a confident nod from the assistant referee. This one, though, seemed close. A quick VAR check went in favour of France, and Benzema, stunned, saw himself bagging yet another goal for his nation. This goal registered Benzema as the oldest player ever to score more than once in a major tournament match for France, overtaking football icon Zinedine Zidane. France’s lead meant Portugal were hovering near the exit door in this exhilarating Group F matchup.

Captain Cool

Portugal neared the penalty area once again, and in a feeble attempt to block a Ronaldo cross, French right-back Jules Koundé knocked the ball out with his arm. A VAR check confirmed the handball and Portugal secured yet another penalty into the 58th minute. Ronaldo stepped up once again, and in a historic moment sent the ball into the back of France’s net. With this penalty, Ronaldo scored his 109th goal in national colours, equaling Ali Daie’s all-time international goalscoring record. This goal also meant that Portugal VS France became the first game in the history of the European Championships to see 3 penalties scored (outside of a shootout). Portugal’s equalizer saw the Group F table shuffle again; it had already changed a total of over 4 times an hour into the match.

Patricio keeps Portugal alive

Both teams were level, and drama in the other matchup between Germany and Hungary meant that anyone could top this table. However, France nearly established their dominance in a 68th-minute banger by Pogba from 25 yards out, which was beautifully stopped by the Wolves keeper in a one-handed blinder against the post. Seconds later Portugal’s Patricio was back up on his feet to pull off yet another stunning block against Griezmann’s strike on the rebound, narrowly keeping Portugal alive through this late French scare.

Ending with a 2-2 finish, a dramatic evening in Budapest saw both France and Portugal through to the Round of 16.

(Ahaan is an intern with indianexpress.com)

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