Ronaldo’s final Euros comes to a close as France beat Portugal

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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — France’s heartache in penalty shootouts is over. So is Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-ever European Championship.

In a clash of the football superstars, it was Kylian Mbappé — and not Ronaldo, his idol — advancing to a semifinal match against Spain as France beat Portugal 5-3 in a shootout following a 0-0 draw on Friday.

Portugal substitute Joao Felix hit a post with the only miss in the shootout and Theo Hernández showed no sign of pressure by converting the clinching kick into the top corner.

It was a record sixth and final European Championship for the 39-year-old Ronaldo, who scored Portugal’s first penalty in the shootout and ended up consoling fellow veteran Pepe afterward as the 41-year-old defender cried on his captain’s shoulder.

“We need to go through this moment of our loss, which is very painful,” Pepe said.

Ronaldo’s 20-year career in the Euros included the title in 2016 — when Portugal beat France in the final — and it remains to be seen if the five-time world player of the year will continue playing for his country through to the 2026 World Cup, when he will be aged 41.

“Everything is too raw,” said Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, when asked if that was Ronaldo’s last game for his country. “We are suffering a defeat as a team — there are no individual decisions at this point.”

The victory ended the recent heartbreak of Mbappé and France in shootouts, having lost in them at their last two major tournaments — in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021 and in the 2022 World Cup final.

Before that, the French were also defeated on spot kicks by Italy in the 2006 World Cup final so it had been 26 years — since beating the Italians in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1998 — that Les Bleus had been victorious in a shootout.

Mbappé didn’t even take a penalty this time, having been substituted during halftime of extra time following a couple of knocks to his broken nose that was covered by a protective mask. France coach Didier Deschamps said his captain was tired, too.

Les Bleus didn’t need their star player, as Ousmane Dembele, Youssouf Fofana, Jules Kounde and Bradley Barcola all found the net in the shootout — held at the end housing Portugal’s vocal fans — before Hernández’s coup de grâce set off jubilant scenes for the French inside the stadium in Hamburg.

“It wasn’t easy,” France goalkeeper Mike Maignan said. “We didn’t always play that great, it was a complicated game.

“We got to the penalty shootout and didn’t waver. We can be proud of ourselves.”

France will play Spain in the semifinals after their extra-time win over Germany in Stuttgart earlier Friday, with Les Bleus staying on course for a third European Championship title after 1984 and 2000.

Deschamps’ team has reached the last four despite no France player having scored from open play so far in the tournament. Fortunately for Les Bleus, they have been excellent at the other end, conceding just one goal — a retaken penalty by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in the group stage.

“We are solid and exemplary in defense and that is essential at a major tournament,” Deschamps said. “When you don’t score a lot of goals, it’s best not to concede a lot of goals, either.

“But we need to score more goals .. we are at the mercy of our opponents.”

Portugal exited having failed to score in either of their knockout games — the team beat Slovenia on penalties in the last 16 — and its final group match, leaving Martinez plenty of questions to answer.

“From our side, we deserved to win,” the Portugal coach said. “But we are talking playing against the best players in Europe. It’s a sad night.”