Ronaldo, Vitinha, the goalkeepers… The keys to the match seen by the former Monaco player Costinha

Ronaldo, Vitinha, the goalkeepers… The keys to the match seen by the former Monaco player Costinha
Ronaldo, Vitinha, the goalkeepers… The keys to the match seen by the former Monaco player Costinha

France will face Portugal in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 this Friday (9 p.m.). For the occasion, former Portuguese international Costinha took part in the prediction game, and gives us his vision of the clash between the Blues and the Portuguese.

He was there in 2004 when the very young Cristiano Ronaldo collapsed in tears after his team’s defeat in the Euro final against Greece. A Portuguese international from 1998 to 2006, Costinha will experience a special match this Friday, as the former Monaco player spent four years in Ligue 1. Close to French football, but even more so to the Seleçao and Cristiano Ronaldo (to whom he sent a message of encouragement before the clash against Les Bleus), Costinha does not hide his enthusiasm for what he believes should have been “the final”.

>>> France-Portugal live

Costinha, how do you imagine this match on Friday?

A very tight match, as usual with Portugal-France matches. They are the two great nations of this tournament, with very strong squads. It will be a match that will be played in the details, no one will leave spaces for influential players like Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Leão, or Bernardo Silva. I am looking forward to the match, for me it was the final, but unfortunately it is a quarter.

Is there a favorite between these two teams?

No. If I speak as a Portuguese I will say Portugal of course… But there is no favorite. Both teams have the potential to win this match.

What will be the keys to the meeting?

First of all, the goalkeepers Mike Maignan and Diogo Costa. The level of the attackers is very high so both must be good, rather the Portuguese goalkeeper than the French one (laughs). Mbappé-Cancelo will be interesting too. Will (William) Saliba and (Dayot) Upamecano give Cristiano Ronaldo space or not? Everyone says he is not the same, but if the ball falls into the box there is a 99% chance of a goal. The key will be the midfield. The French midfield is strong, with N’Golo Kanté, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Antoine Griezmann perhaps as number 10… We too opposite with Palhinha, Vitinha, Bruno Fernandes… How will they find the space to find the players up front?

Vitinha has made another good impression since the start of the Euro…

Exceptional. He has grown enormously. He started so strong at Porto, he goes to PSG and does incredible things. Very comfortable with the ball, goals, passes, he inserts himself into the box… He can play number 6, even if he does not have the fight of a Palhinha or Manuel Ugarte who are more physical. But he is an intelligent player, the coach can put him anywhere and he will know how to understand the game and give the best for the team.

In Portugal, are people afraid of Kylian Mbappé?

No fear. But we know that if you give Kylian Mbappé the opportunity to have a 1-on-1 he is difficult to stop and you will suffer. But in any case you look the other way, it’s the same. Up front, France has incredible strength. More than monitoring Kylian Mbappé, you have to know how to cut the lines of players who can give the ball.

Opposite, there is Cristiano Ronaldo. Many say he is too old to make a difference…

It’s good that we think like that! Maybe he’ll wake up. He’s 39, almost 40, so it’s normal. The most impressive thing is that at his age, he still has this desire and in the game he’s still scary, you see all the players around him not letting him play. Even at 40 he’s not going to lose his qualities, he doesn’t have the same intensity, but in his positioning, his ability to find the back of the net… he’s still very dangerous. Everyone says he’s old: but how many players has he left next to him watching him?

When we see his tears against Slovenia, it reminds us of those against Greece in 2004, when you were at his side. How do you explain that he still wants to win so much?

Easy. There it’s not the desire, it’s Ronaldo who says to himself ‘I missed a penalty that could have given us qualification’. It’s the weight that is on him. It’s human to miss. He didn’t contain (his emotions). That’s why the tears came out, it’s the desire to continue to please all the Portuguese people.

Are there characteristics of the young Cristiano Ronaldo that you still find today?

The younger Cristiano Ronaldo was more lively, then he became more refined, much more focused. His main quality is desire, he hasn’t lost it. When you lose it you do anything. In recent matches I’ve even seen him press, give his all to win the ball. He understood that this is perhaps his last big tournament with the national team, and he wants to finish well.

So what is your prediction for this Euro quarter-final?

A tight match, maybe a penalty shootout. It could end in a draw or a scenario where the one who scores doesn’t concede a goal behind. I hope France 0, Portugal 1.

Interview by Edgar Groleau, in Lisbon (Portugal)

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