Karim Benzema felt everyone in France was waiting for his return to the international scoresheet after his brace in the 2-2 Euro 2020 draw with holders Portugal.

The world champions sealed top spot as the only undefeated team in Group F after a pulsating encounter in Budapest, where a pair of Cristiano Ronaldo penalties saw the five-time Ballon d'Or winner draw level with Ali Daei as the leading international goalscorer of all time on 109.

Benzema's lengthy exile from France duty means he is nowhere near such dizzying individual numbers, but he levelled from the spot before half-time at the Puskas Arena.

That was goal 28 for Les Bleus, coming almost six years after 27 arrived as part of a double in an October 2015 friendly against Armenia.

The wait for number 29 was nowhere near as long as he latched on to Paul Pobga's sumptuous throughball two minutes into the second half.

"There is a lot of joy, pride, I think everyone was waiting for it," he told beIN Sport.

"There was this pressure on me from all over the country. But I'm a football player, I'm a professional, I need that pressure too. 

"So it's nice to score and to be qualified. For my club, I'm used to scoring, but I wanted to score in this team because I know that goals are very important in this competition."

 

Benzema's goals meant France secured a comparatively favourable last-16 tie against Switzerland, with Portugal having to face the world's number-one rated side Belgium and Germany – who flirted with disaster in a 2-2 draw with Hungary – pouching a Wembley date versus England.

"It was a big game against a great nation. We know Portugal, [they have] a lot of intensity. There were goals and opportunities," the Real Madrid striker said in a separate interview with TF1.

"We tried to play, to get chances and we managed to score two goals. 

"There is all the pressure around me, which is normal but you should never give up. This is what I do, trying to make movements and today it smiled on me but the most important is that we are qualified."

Benzema added: "These are not doubts, but I feel such an expectation from the whole country, which is normal for me after five years of waiting. I will savour it with everyone.

"This is what we need to go to the end. Personally, it warmed my heart and I hope there will be other evenings like this."

Ali Daei congratulated Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo for equalling his long-standing record for international goals.

Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot to move onto 109 goals for defending champions Portugal as they secured passage to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a 2-2 draw against France on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Ronaldo now needs just one more goal to surpass Daei, who chalked up his remarkable tally for Iran between 1993 and 2006.

Daei was quick to mark the achievement on social media and predict that he will not jointly hold the record for long.

The 52-year-old wrote on Instagram: "Congratulations to @cristiano who is now one goal away from breaking the men’s international goalscoring record. 

"I am honoured that this remarkable achievement will belong to Ronaldo - great champion of football and caring humanist who inspires and impacts lives throughout the world.

"Vamos!"

Ronaldo's first opportunity to claim the outright lead will come when Portugal contest their last-16 tie on Sunday.

Having finished third behind France and Germany in Group F, Fernando Santos' side will take on Group B winners Belgium in Seville.

Cristiano Ronaldo equalled Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals as he scored two penalties in Portugal's 2-2 Euro 2020 draw with France.

The Portugal captain's fourth and fifth strikes of the tournament took him level with Iran great Daei, whose benchmark has stood since he retired in 2006.

Ronaldo's opener had taken him clear of Miroslav Klose for the most World Cup and European Championship goals combined, a tally that improved to 21 with his second spot-kick.

That equaliser was only enough to take defending European champions Portugal through in third place in Group F to meet Belgium in Seville in the last 16.

Ronaldo will get his opportunity to pass Daei on Sunday, although a tough path to the final awaits Portugal and their skipper even if they defeat the Red Devils.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo equalled Ali Daei's all-time international goalscoring record as he held his nerve to haul Portugal to a 2-2 draw with France and into the knockout rounds of Euro 2020.

Ronaldo scored the first of three penalties awarded by Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz at the Puskas Arena, although his old Real Madrid strike partner Karim Benzema levelled from the spot and put the world champions ahead at the start of the second half.

At that stage, the holders were staring at elimination as Les Blues eyed a measure of revenge for their Euro 2016 final defeat, but Ronaldo stepped up again at his country's hour of need when Jules Kounde was penalised for handball.

Having already overhauled Miroslav Klose – whose countrymen Germany flirted with disaster before salvaging a 2-2 draw against Hungary in Munich – to become the leading combined scorer at World Cups and European Championships combined, Ronaldo beat Hugo Lloris again to pull level with the mark set by Iran's Daei – one that has long been in the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's sights.

Paul Pobga unlocked the Portugal defence with a glorious 16th-minute throughball, although Kylian Mbappe's finish was not of the same standard and Rui Patricio saved.

Opposite number Hugo Lloris did not cover himself in glory when he rashly tried to punch Joao Moutinho's free-kick and clattered into Danilo Pereira. The France captain was cautioned and unable to atone as Ronaldo sent him the wrong way from the spot.

He was quickly followed into the book by Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez as Lahoz placed himself at the centre of the contest, and the official handed France a lifeline as he penalised Nelson Semedo for blocking off Mbappe and Benzema dispatched from 12 yards.

Another delicious Pogba pass completed a swift turnaround, as Benzema got away from Ruben Dias to coolly slot home two minutes into the second half.

Ronaldo almost found an instant response when he met Raphael Guerreiro's and he levelled with an hour played, Lahoz pointing to the spot once more when Kounde handled the Juventus star's delivery.

Pogba remained the game's outstanding player and Rui Patricio clawed out a stunning 25-yard effort from the Manchester United man before springing up to sharply deny Griezmann on the follow-up.

In stoppage time, Lahoz passed up the chance to give the fourth spot-kick of a fairly remarkable personal outing and a VAR check spared Bruno Fernandes for a clumsy challenge on fellow substitute Kingsley Coman.

What does it mean? France top 'group of death' as Portugal and Germany live to fight another day

The value of Benzema's brace was born out in France topping the group as the only undefeated team, earning a comparatively favourable tie against Switzerland in Bucharest. By contrast, Portugal travel to Seville to take on the world's number-one ranked side Belgium and Germany must face England at Wembley.

Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined with his penalty against France.

The Portugal star, who scored twice in the 3-0 win over Hungary on matchday one and then once against Germany, is the first player in history to reach 20 goals across both competitions.

The 36-year-old overtook former Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who managed 19 goals over his career at the two tournaments.

Ronaldo this year became the first player to appear at five different European Championships, having made his tournament debut back in 2004.

He is the leading goalscorer at the event with 13, four more than previous record-holder Michel Platini, and he has made the most appearances at the Euros and World Cup (41).

Ronaldo's goal in Budapest also ended his barren run against France. He had never previously scored against Les Bleus in six appearances, making the world champions the international opponents he had faced most often without netting.

 

Italy legend Filippo Inzaghi has outlined the areas Kylian Mbappe must improve upon if he is to reach Cristiano Ronaldo's level.

Two of world football's biggest names go head to head on Wednesday evening when France face Portugal in the group stages of Euro 2020.

Les Bleus know their place in the knockout stages is already guaranteed but will be out to secure top spot in Group F and a kinder last-16 draw.

Portugal, meanwhile, are at risk of crashing out of the tournament unless they secure at least a point from their meeting with the world champions.

Mbappe and Ronaldo are likely to have a big say for their respective teams but Inzaghi believes one man might find it easier to influence proceedings thanks to his starting position.

"Being the main point of reference up front could be an advantage for Ronaldo, but he could be an easier target for defenders," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Mbappe can look for spaces and sometimes he can hide."

Mbappe is often hailed as a potential successor to Ronaldo - or indeed Lionel Messi, dependent on taste - as the world's best player.

But Inzaghi feels the Frenchman, who has scored 78 goals in 80 Ligue 1 appearances over the last three seasons, is capable of showing a greater killer instinct in the box.

"Ronaldo was unique in the central part of his career at Real Madrid," he added.

"Now Mbappe is in Paris, then we'll see. For now, he doesn't seem attracted by goals as Cristiano is.

"Mbappe's dribbling in tight spaces and his change of pace are stunning. It really looks like he has gears in his legs.

"Even more, it looks easy for him to make the difference, even in one metre. He can be devastating, whether he has space or not.

"However, Cristiano's heading and ability to lose his marker are unreachable, and he is so accurate whether he shoots with his right or left foot. 

"This is something Mbappe still needs to improve."

A record-breaking defeat to Germany on matchday two leaves Portugal with work to do against France in a repeat of the previous European Championship final.

Portugal became the first defending champions to concede four goals at the Euros and now need at least a point to reach the last 16.

Top spot in Group F could still be theirs if they beat France, although Portugal's Euro 2016 final triumph was their only win against Les Bleus in 13 attempts.

Reflecting on the Germany match ahead of this tough test, coach Fernando Santos said: "We all felt disappointed on our way back.

"Everyone feels a sense of responsibility, and the following day the players reacted well.

"They are experienced players and appreciate that sometimes you don't win. There are times when even the top teams don't deal well with defeat."

France have never previously played Portugal before the semi-final stage of a major tournament, but their meetings tend to be low scoring. The previous four have provided only three goals.

Although Didier Deschamps' men are already through as at least one of the four best third-placed sides, the coach insists they do not lack motivation.

"To be honest, in the situation where we are now, if we had six points I would have the same thoughts because a negative result would have the same impact," he said.

"We have the insurance of being qualified already, that gives us some kind of tranquillity but it won't change our playing style.

"Of course we owe it to ourselves and the French people to deliver the best possible result."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo

When is Ronaldo not Portugal's player to watch? He has history in his sights, too, having tied Miroslav Klose as the leading scorer at Euros and World Cups combined (19 goals) and moved within three of Ali Daei's world-record 109-goal tally last time out. The Juventus superstar has never scored against France, though, his six goalless appearances his worst record in international football.

France – Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann was the subject of praise from Santos ahead of this match and is himself only three goals adrift of a benchmark for France. He has 11 goals at major international tournaments, with Michel Platini's 14 leading the way. He has Thierry Henry (12) and Just Fontaine (13) to leapfrog before reaching that record, though.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– This is the fifth match between Portugal and France at a major tournament, but it is the first time they have met in the group stages; all four previous encounters took place in the semis (Euro 1984, Euro 2000, World Cup 2006) or final (Euro 2016). France won the first three while Portugal came out victors in the Euro 2016 showpiece match.
– Following their 1-1 draw with Hungary on MD2, France have avoided defeat in more matches when trailing at half-time than any other team in European Championship history (six – W4 D2).
– France are unbeaten in each of their past 11 group stage games at major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros), winning seven and drawing four. However, each of their past three MD3 group games in these tournaments have ended level (D3).
– Last time out versus Germany (4-2), Portugal became the first reigning champions in European Championship history to concede four goals in a single match in the competition. Indeed, Portugal had never conceded four goals in a single European Championship match before facing Germany on MD2.
– Portugal have lost two of their past three matches at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), one more than they had lost in the previous 17 such games combined (W8 D8 L1). They last lost consecutive such matches within a single tournament at Euro 2008.

Didier Deschamps believes Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann are developing a useful understanding in France's attack at Euro 2020.

The world champions will seal top spot in Group F on Wednesday if they are able to beat Portugal, their conquerors in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

An already enviable array of talent at Deschamps' disposal was bolstered by Benzema's return from a near six-year international exile ahead of the tournament, allowing the head coach to field a dream forward line of Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe alongside the Real Madrid striker.

The returns so far have been occasionally promising, if not prolific, with Mats Hummels' own goal the difference in a 1-0 opening win over Germany before Griezmann salvaged a 1-1 draw against group outsiders Hungary – his solitary shot of the competition so far.

In the latter match, Benzema passed to Griezmann on two occasions, receiving possession from the Barcelona man three times.

Against France, an instant understanding between Benzema and Mbappe was notable, as the Paris Saint-Germain superstar was found 12 times by his elder team-mate.

By contrast, Griezmann passed to Benzema once and received the ball from him on three occasions.

 

"That was your impression. I don't think that was our opponents' impression," Deschamps told a pre-match news conference in Budapest when it was put to him the Griezmann-Benzema link was not yet as fruitful as had been hoped.

"They had some really good actions together.

"Of course, we can always do better but, speaking of misunderstandings, this is impossible.

"There's also Kylian and the whole team, because the ball comes from the defenders and the midfield players and it is always about getting the ball as fast as possible in front of the opponent's goal."

Griezmann is playing in a slightly more withdrawn right-sided attacking role, with Benzema as the central focal point and Mbappe using his electrifying pace to get in behind opponents down the left.

While Deschamps acknowledges this is not Griezmann's preferred position, he believes his versatility and adaptability will help to make the trident a success.

"I didn't teach him anything. Since I've known him, I knew he could play in all offensive positions," he added,

"Maybe it's not his preferred position, but it's a more general thought in terms of can it have a positive impact on the balance of the team and make us more dangerous for the opponent, can it make us better?"

Pepe has urged Portugal to show the same hunger for victory against world champions France as they were subjected to against Germany last weekend.

Holders Portugal face the prospect of their Euro 2020 campaign ending at the group stage, with a positive result against Didier Deschamps' world champions on Wednesday their target to guarantee progress, although a narrow defeat could still see them progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.

The good work from an opening 3-0 win over Hungary was undone in a 4-2 defeat to Germany in Munich, when a usually obdurate Portugal defence was repeatedly undone as Joachim Low's 3-4-3 system granted his team numerical superiority in attack.

Left wing-back Robin Gosens tormented Portugal right-back Nelson Semedo and contributed an assist and a goal after half-time, as the Selecao became the first defending European champions to concede four goals in a single match at the competition.

However, it was the excitement that Atalanta player Gosens showed when Germany won corners that caught veteran centre-back Pepe's eye.

"Against Germany, I have a very clear picture in my mind. Whenever the left full-back got a corner, they were very happy," Pepe said.

"That shows how much they wanted to beat us. We have to want it as much as Germany did in order to make it through and achieve our goals.

"When we win we all win, when we lose we all lose. That's what makes us a very strong, cohesive group.

"We need to have our lines closer together, we need to support each other. Over the last few years we've shown what Portugal is like, we have good quality players and all work together."

Head coach Fernando Santos echoed Pepe's sentiments, acknowledging his side lacked their usual balance between attack and defence last time out.

"We did a thorough analysis of the game and looked at what we could have done better. I think we all reached a similar type of conclusion," Santos said. "It wasn't our usual type of game, it wasn't the Portuguese style.

"The crucial element in the game is to balance the team, it's not about the best or the worst. Every single team on Earth can be aggressive and supportive of one another.

"We know that France will play like this, We need to fight more, want it more and be more organised than they are.

"If we put our quality out there and they do, then it can swing either way. We need to be very focused and very strong in every area of the pitch and every moment of the game."

Santos pledged not to make wholesale changes, while acknowledging the quick turnaround in games and high temperatures in Budapest have had a sapping effect.

In terms of strategy, the veteran tactician stated it was important to right the wrong of his team's Munich missteps.

"As for changes, I could change every single player – I'm joking, of course! It's not about changing everyone," he added.

"We played four at the back and we were fully aware that we were under-manned. Against lower-ranked teams we can attack with more people and our midfielders play differently than the German midfielders.

"France play up front with three very mobile players. Benzema and Griezmann are very mobile players. In the last third we will have four against three, sometimes we will have four against four.

"We're focused. If we play a very intensive game, with the right kind of focus, play out from the back and make the opponent run, then I think we have a very good chance of winning."

Cristiano Ronaldo is a "source of inspiration for everyone", according to France forward Antoine Griezmann.

France face Ronaldo's Portugal in their final Group F game at Euro 2020, in what is a repeat of the Euro 2016 final.

Despite Ronaldo succumbing to injury on that night in Paris, Portugal went on to clinch the trophy with a 1-0, extra-time victory.

Both teams played on Saturday but fell short of the results they wanted. France could only draw 1-1 with Hungary in Budapest, while Portugal were beaten 4-2 by Germany.

Ronaldo put Fernando Santos' side ahead in Munich, taking his tally to the tournament to three goals in two games, while he is now on 107 international goals, two shy of matching the record set by Iran great Ali Daei.

Ronaldo has now scored 19 goals at World Cups and Euros – no European player has ever netted more across the two competitions, with only Miroslav Klose scoring as many.

The 36-year-old has also scored in 14 different major competition matches, the joint-most of any European player, alongside Germany greats Klose and Jurgen Klinsmann, though Ronaldo has never found the net against France, failing to score against them in 439 minutes of action across six games.

Saturday's results leave Group F firmly in the balance, with France needing to beat Portugal to guarantee top spot, while defeat could well see them finish third.

Regardless of what is riding on Wednesday's clash, Griezmann lauded Ronaldo – as well as his Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi – as an inspirational force.

"[He is] a source of inspiration for everyone," Griezmann told a news conference.

"It is extraordinary what he is doing at 36 years old. He and Messi, there will be no one like them, we are lucky to meet them on the field.

"He is a complete player, an example for all young and old, he can show the way for many young people."

Griezmann got France's equaliser against Hungary, levelling from close range to score his 11th major tournament goal.

Only Michel Platini (14), Just Fontaine (13) and Thierry Henry (10) have more for France, while only Henry and Platini have scored in more matches at World Cups or Euros than Griezmann, who will draw level with the duo should he score again at Euro 2020.

Asked if he is eyeing up Platini's record, Griezmann replied: "We are talking about a legend. That is not my main objective.

"I would rather win without scoring rather than draw by scoring. I prefer to help the team. If we score, so much the better for everybody."

One player who thrived for France in their win over Germany, but failed to replicate the performance against Hungary, was Paul Pogba, but Griezmann insisted the midfielder's display cannot be too harshly judged.

"We are not going to question a player when he was a little less good compared to the last match. It was very hot. Even I was tired," Griezmann said.

"That's how it is. He will have another match against Portugal to prove that he can go on and keep that level against Germany in every game."

As for Pogba himself, the Manchester United man believes the result in Budapest presents a wake-up call for tournament favourites Les Bleus.

"You should never compare matches against Germany or Hungary," Pogba told Telefoot.

"We are still a little disappointed because we wanted to win and qualify [for the last 16]. Now there is still one game left. It's not a slap, but a little pat on the face to say, 'guys, we know what's in store for us.'"

A host of European football's heavyweights were in action on another day of high drama at Euro 2020 on Saturday.

The stand-out result was Germany's thumping 4-2 win over holders Portugal at the Allianz Arena in Munich, which featured yet another landmark strike from Cristiano Ronaldo. 

In the same group, tournament favourites France were held to a surprise draw by Hungary, while, in Group E, Spain's stuttering start continued with a 1-1 draw against Poland.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the best facts from across the day's action.

Portugal 2-4 Germany: Holders give Die Mannschaft a helping hand

Portugal made some unwanted history as they slipped to a resounding defeat against Germany at the Allianz Arena.

It had started so well for Fernando Santos' men, Ronaldo putting the holders ahead early on with a strike that took him level with Miroslav Klose as the European player to have scored the most combined goals (19) across the World Cup and European Championship. 

However, Portugal became the first European nation ever to concede two own goals – through Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro – in a single match at a major tournament to give Germany a half-time lead. 

Kai Havertz added a third to become Germany's youngest goalscorer in a European Championship game, aged 22 years and eight days, before Robin Gosens got in on the act. 

That meant Portugal, who pulled one back through Diogo Jota, became the first reigning champions in European Championship history to concede four goals in a single match in the competition.

Hungary 1-1 France: Fiola finds a way through stubborn defence

Few gave Hungary a chance of getting anything from their clash with the world champions, but Marco Rossi's side claimed a memorable point.

Attila Fiola opened the scoring shortly before half-time, ending a run of 527 minutes of play for France without shipping a goal.

Fiola has now scored two goals in his last four appearances for Hungary after failing to find the back of the net in his first 33 games for his country. 

Aged 31 years and 122 days, right-back Fiola is the oldest player to score against France in a European Championship match since Rui Jordao scored a brace against them for Portugal in 1984 (31y 319d).

However, France stretched their unbeaten run at major tournaments to nine matches when Antoine Griezmann levelled midway through the second half. 

The Barcelona forward has now scored 11 goals at major international tournaments, with only Michel Platini (14), Just Fontaine (13) and Thierry Henry (12) having scored more. 

France could have sealed victory had Kylian Mbappe shown more accuracy in front of goal. The Paris Saint-Germain forward attempted six shots – the most he has ever had in a single match for his country. 

Spain 1-1 Poland: La Roja's sluggish start continues

This draw meant Spain have failed to win either of their first two games in a European Championship tournament for the first time since 1996. 

It had started so well for them, however, with Alvaro Morata firing home from close range in the 25th minute. The on-loan Juventus striker has scored four of Spain's last five goals at European Championship finals – only Fernando Torres (five) has ever scored more goals in the competition for the nation.

Poland pulled level shortly after half-time, though, Robert Lewandowski becoming only the third player to score in three major tournaments for Poland, after Grzegorz Lato and Andrzej Szarmach.

Spain did have the opportunity to claim all three points, but Gerard Moreno struck the post from the penalty spot, meaning they have failed to score five of their last eight penalties (excluding shootouts) at the tournament.

There was also a landmark moment for Poland's Kacper Kozlowski (17 years and 246 days), who became the youngest ever player to make an appearance at the European Championship, overtaking Jude Bellingham's record (17y 349d) set for England six days ago.

Joachim Low was full of praise for Robin Gosens' swashbuckling performance as Germany beat reigning champions Portugal 4-2 in Euro 2020 Group F on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo had put Portugal ahead early on with a strike that took him level with Miroslav Klose as the European player to have scored the most combined goals (19) across the World Cup and European Championship. 

Low's side stormed back before half-time, however, courtesy of two own goals in the space of four minutes from Ruben Dias – forced by a Gosens cross – and Raphael Guerreiro.

Gosens, who had earlier seen an effort ruled out for offside, then teed up Kai Havertz for a third shortly after the interval before eventually getting in on the act himself, heading home Joshua Kimmich's cross at the back post. 

Diogo Jota pulled one back for Fernando Santos' men, but a late comeback failed to materialise as Germany sealed their first win of the tournament in style. 

Low marked Gosens out for special praise in his post-match media conference and hopes there is plenty more to come from the 26-year-old.

"I don't know if it was the game of a lifetime for him, maybe he still has to play that," Low said.

"But it was an amazing performance from him. He worked very hard and on top of that he was a constant threat up front as well.

"That is exactly what we needed today."

Germany's first win of the tournament helped them move up to second in Group F, one point behind leaders France. 

A draw in their final group game against Hungary on Wednesday should be enough to see them progress to the knockout stages, but Low did not think the victory was a sign of how far Germany can progress in the competition.

"It doesn't have anything to do with initiating something," he said. "It gives you some satisfaction but we never had any doubts after losing to the world champions, we knew we could do better.

"At a tournament you know how it goes, step by step. The next step will be Hungary, which will be hard as they park the bus in defence.

"Overall it was a strong performance against a technically good Portuguese team who were strong on the counter-attack.

"Especially after going behind we showed a great team spirit, we didn't lose control, we were dynamic and energetic and created a lot of opportunities.

"We managed to be a threat to the defence and overall this victory is well deserved."

Portugal, meanwhile, became the first reigning champions in European Championship history to concede four goals in a single match in the competition.

Boss Santos accepted full responsibility for the result and said it is up to him to turn things around for the final group game against France on Wednesday.

"Whether we progress or not is up to us and we have to respond to this," he said.

"The manager is to blame for the result. If we look at individual players it would be shooting ourselves in the foot. Now I have to talk to the players and understand why we couldn't do what we planned to do.

"I am responsible for this, I don't want to mention players by name as we need to solve this as a team and think about France.

"France play differently and we need to change the things we did which were not that good."

Few coaches have received quite as much scrutiny as Joachim Low in the elongated run-up to Euro 2020.

Castigated after Germany's stunning group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup, Low kept his job on the proviso of him starting a new phase for Die Mannschaft, with many of the old guard who helped inspire them to glory four years earlier in Brazil cast aside and their next generation of stars pushed to the fore.

Transitions, though, are rarely straightforward and Germany's bumps on the road to the European Championship were severe. They would have been relegated from League A of the Nations League if not for a restructuring following the inaugural edition and a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Spain in the same competition last November prompted an inquest that eventually led to his March decision to step down after the Euros.

A World Cup qualifying defeat to North Macedonia likely influenced Low's call to end the exiles of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels for the Euros but, after the latter put through his own net in Germany's 1-0 loss to France in their opening Group F fixture and Cristiano Ronaldo then put Portugal ahead in Munich on Saturday, the coach would have been forgiven for wondering if this was just simply one tournament cycle too far.

Yet that dark moment amid the late evening sunshine at the Allianz Arena quickly gave way to belated vindication for Low, whose team rose to the occasion to claim a superb 4-2 victory in the game of the tournament so far.

Staring the prospect of taking no points from two games in the face, it was not Muller who turned the tide in Germany's favour but a member of that new generation they look set to rely on for years to come under Hansi Flick.

Robin Gosens won only his ninth cap for Germany against Fernando Santos' men, but his performance was that of a player vastly more experienced on this stage.

Schooled in the art of expansive attacking football through playing for a relentless Atalanta side that led Serie A with 90 goals in 2020-21, Gosens ruthlessly made the most of the inexplicable freedom given to him by Portugal right-back Nelson Semedo.

 

Gosens exuded confidence in the 35th minute as he hit a first-time ball across goal after Joshua Kimmich switched the play. Ruben Dias, under pressure from the unwelcome sight of Champions League final hero Kai Havertz, inadvertently levelled matters. Four minutes later, Raphael Guerreiro, who benefited from a fortunate deflection in Portugal's opening 3-0 win over Hungary, followed Dias in bundling into his own net from a Kimmich pull-back after Gosens had cut the ball back for Muller to cross.

There was no doubt Havertz had the decisive touch after Gosens put the ball on a platter for the Chelsea playmaker to make it 3-1 six minutes into the second half. A remarkable showing was then capped by Gosens with a firm close-range header from another Kimmich delivery.

Portugal pulled a goal back through Diogo Jota and Renato Sanches rattled the frame of the goal with a long-range effort, but a team that appeared poised to secure a place in the last 16 must now recover from becoming the first defending champion to concede four times in a game. It was the second time Portugal have let in four in a major tournament, having also done so against Germany in 2014.

Few would have envisioned Gosens having a hand in every goal but, with his influence and Havertz becoming Germany's youngest goalscorer at the Euros at 22 years and eight days old, this was Low's 2018 vision coming to fruition.

It may not have been exactly how he pictured it, Muller playing two key passes and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos, another old hand, heavily involved. But through that blend of youth and experience, Germany's hopes of a successful swansong for Low have life going into the final group game with a surprisingly obdurate Hungary.

On the evidence of their 1-1 draw with world champions France, Gosens and Co. may need to work harder to break down Hungary than they did Portugal.

For the 'Group of Death' to deliver, Germany needed to put the trials and tribulations that followed their no-show in Russia behind them. They did so emphatically against the unusually fragile defending champions and, heading into the final matchday, who wins Group F is anyone's guess. 

Germany benefited from two own goals as they came from behind to seal a thumping 4-2 win over Portugal in Euro 2020 Group F on Saturday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo had put holders Portugal ahead early on with a strike that took him level with Miroslav Klose as the European player to have scored the most combined goals (19) across the World Cup and European Championship. 

Joachim Low's side stormed back before half-time, however, courtesy of two own goals in the space of four minutes from Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro. 

The 2014 world champions wrapped up an emphatic first victory of the tournament in the second half thanks to strikes from Kai Havertz and the impressive Robin Gosens, with Diogo Jota pulling one back for Fernando Santos' men.  

Left-back Gosens thought he had handed Germany a fifth-minute lead but his acrobatic effort at the back post was ruled out for offside against Serge Gnabry.

Despite Germany's dominant start it was Portugal who struck first, Ronaldo tapping home from close range in the 15th minute following a flowing counter-attacking move involving Bernardo Silva and Jota. 

Germany pulled level 10 minutes before half-time, though, when Dias diverted Gosens' mis-hit volley past Rui Patricio from just outside the six-yard box. 

Things got even better for Joachim Low's side four minutes later when Guerreiro turned into his own net from close range after Joshua Kimmich had pulled the ball back across the face of goal.

They extended their lead further six minutes after the interval, Havertz turning in Gosens' cross from close range. 

Gosens then added his name to the scoresheet on the hour mark, leaping highest at the back post to head home Kimmich's cross from the right. 

Liverpool striker Jota gave Portugal hope of pulling off a memorable comeback when he fired home from Ronaldo's pull-back in the 67th minute, but Germany held on to inflict just a third defeat in their last 31 matches for Portugal. who hit the post late on through Renato Sanches.

When Cristiano Ronaldo limped out of the Euro 2016 final, Portugal had to bide their time and turn towards an unlikely hero.

Eder, a flop in the Premier League with Swansea City who had been sent out on loan to Lille, enjoyed the most memorable moment of his time in France – and, indeed, his career – when he drove home a brilliant winner to down the hosts 1-0 in extra time at the Stade de France.

It felt like an entirely fitting way for Fernando Santos' team to win a tournament they slogged their way through.

Quickfire goals from Ronaldo and Nani early in the second half of a 2-0 semi-final win over Wales accounted for Portugal's only victory inside 90 minutes.

There were three draws during the group stage, including a 0-0 scoreline remaining intact when their talisman missed a penalty against Austria. The last-16 encounter with Croatia also reached full-time goalless before Ricardo Quaresma struck during the additional period.  

 

Quaresma and Nani provided dutiful support as their careers at the top level ticked down, but the cupboard was fairly bare for Santos once injury struck during the first half in Paris and Ronaldo was reduced to barking encouragement and instructions from the touchline.

Should a similar fate befall Portugal's all-time leading scorer this time around, the replacement goal threat would not be so obscure.

In Andre Silva, there is a natural stand-in at centre-forward, buoyed by 28 goals in 32 Bundesliga outings for Eintracht Frankfurt this season.

The burden could also be shouldered by Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes, an ideal candidate for penalty duties, while Diogo Jota's threat would remain.

Let's not forget that Bernardo Silva played a decent amount of Manchester City's triumphant Premier League title campaign and run to the Champions League final as a false nine, while Joao Felix remains an outstanding talent despite not yet justifying his €126million transfer fee to Atletico Madrid.

None of that quintet were involved at Euro 2016.

 

In short, Santos now has a squad overflowing with attacking firepower, having masterminded a route to glory when such options were far more scarce – save for one ludicrously prolific exception – five years ago.

However, as they prepare to face Germany, they remain a target for some of the criticism that came France's way after their opening 1-0 win in Munich.

Like Didier Deschamps, Santos has been accused of lacking imagination, providing a solid base for his attacking creatives and not much else.

"We are different from France. Let's see what Germany does and we'll try to control Germany too. One thing's for certain, we have to have a ball," Santos told reporters on Friday, insisting his team would look to take the initiative.

"We are not going to defend man to man. We're going to maintain our defensive pattern to be able to have the ball, as we did against Hungary, whom we forced to run."

 

The Hungary game was goalless until the 84th minute, as Ronaldo bagged a brace and superior quality – along with all that enforced running – eventually told in a 3-0 win.

But, with two heavyweight encounters to come before the end of the group stage, the question remains over whether Santos can make his team of winners a team people love to see win.

In the period from the end of the Euro 2012 up until their trudging triumph in 2016, per game Portugal averaged 1.6 goals form 17.2 shots and 5.9 on target at a shot conversion rate of 9.5 per cent.

Since Euro 2016, all of those numbers are up. They average 2.3 goals per game, 18.1 shots and 6.6 on target, converting 12.7 per cent. Their passing accuracy has improved from 83.2 per cent to 86 per cent, while an average of 172.9 passes ending in the final third in every match – up from 145.7 – also suggests a more progressive approach.

Far from waiting around for things to happen, Portugal imposed themselves against Hungary and a partisan Budapest crowd, enjoying 70 per cent possession and making 19 high turnovers – ranking them third overall in the tournament for teams winning the ball back 40 metres from the opposition goal, despite being one of sixes sides to have only played once so far.

 

For context, Santos' men made 27 high turnovers over the course of their six matches in France five years ago.

Ronaldo is reaping the benefit of this increased output of the attacking unit around him. Six of his nine international hat-tricks have come since lifting the European Championship.

If Portugal and the affable curmudgeon Santos are to mimic their neighbours Spain, who went back-to-back in 2008 and 2012, they might just capture hearts and minds along with winners' medals this time around.

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