Saturday, July 13, 2024

Martinez: Euro 2024 quarter-final not just Ronaldo versus Mbappe

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 4 Jul 2024

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Roberto Martinez insists Portugal’s Euro 2024 quarter-final clash with France will not merely come down to Cristiano Ronaldo’s duel with Kylian Mbappe.

Portugal and France face off in Hamburg on Friday, with a last-four meeting with either Germany or Spain the prize for the victor.

Many have billed the match as a head-to-head battle between Mbappe and his idol Ronaldo, with both superstars desperate to hit top form after underwhelming starts to the tournament.

Ronaldo is yet to score from 20 shots worth 2.75 expected goals (xG), the former being a tournament-high tally, and he was in tears at half-time in extra time after seeing a penalty saved in Portugal’s last-16 tie versus Slovenia.

Mbappe, meanwhile, suffered a broken nose in France’s Group D opener against Austria, returning to score from the penalty spot in their matchday-three victory over Poland but failing to prevent them from finishing as runners-up.

France are yet to score a goal from open play at this tournament, with two own goals coming alongside Mbappe’s spot-kick.

Martinez has played down suggestions Friday’s match will be all about stopping Mbappe, saying: “Suffering is part of life, it’s part of football, part of everything.

“We can promise that we will give everything, the players are focused on playing, and football is a team sport. Tomorrow is not a two-player game.

“They have incredible influence, Cristiano had an influence on Mbappe and Mbappe on others, but tomorrow is a game where the team needs to perform great.”

Ronaldo was criticised by many for attempting four shots from direct free-kicks without success against Slovenia.

He has now attempted 60 direct free-kicks in European Championship or World Cup matches, only scoring with one of them, versus Spain at the 2018 World Cup.

Asked whether Ronaldo could be stripped of set-piece duties, Martinez said: “That passes me by.

“The players practice in training and Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes have that responsibility. We are fortunate to have two players with a very good profile to do it.”

Portugal will hope to draw on the memories of their Euro 2016 final victory over Les Bleus, when Eder scored an extra-time winner after Ronaldo was taken off injured.

Asked how Portugal’s class of 2024 matches up to the 2016 champions, Martinez said: “I don’t like to compare generations.

“This generation has a different path. We are a better generation, but in 2016 we had a victory in the final.”

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