Euro 2024: Mendes relishing Mbappé duel in France-Portugal

Portugal left-back Nuno Mendes is relishing the chance to face France star and former Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappé in Friday’s Euro 2024 quarterfinal.

Mendes, 22, played two seasons with Mbappé, who recently joined Real Madrid as a free agent after leaving PSG.

Mendes, who shares a dressing room with five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal’s national team, said of the two superstars: “They are high-level, excellent players who can make a difference at any moment. I shared a dressing room with both of them and it was a pleasure to play with Mbappé and play with Cristiano. They are incredible, from one moment to the next they make a difference.”

Asked if he had to choose between the two, Mendes said in his Wednesday news conference: “It’s complicated. If I were a coach, I would choose both.”

Mendes is ready to take on Mbappé if called upon.

“I don’t think he will be playing on my flank, but if it happens I’m prepared,” he said. “I train every day for these moments and we are prepared to face them.

“They have high-level players, but we also have great players. We need to do everything we can to cancel France’s strengths and play our game.”

Les Bleus have yet to find the back of the net in open play, having reached the last eight following a Kylian Mbappé penalty and two own goals — the latest by Jan Vertonghen in their 1-0 victory over Belgium in the round of 16 on Monday.

“I think it’s good for us, it’s a good indicator,” Mendes said. “They are players who have the scent for goals, both Mbappé and [PSG forward Ousmane] Dembélé. They like to look for the goal. It depends on them and it depends on us, to do our best so that they don’t score goals.”

Ronaldo, 39, goes into Friday’s game having yet to score at Euro 2024 outside of a penalty shootout.

The Portugal captain, who is the tournament’s record scorer with 14 goals, saw his penalty kept out by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak in their round of 16 encounter on Monday.

Ronaldo broke down in tears and had to be consoled by his teammates as the game was decided in a penalty shootout that went Portugal’s way.

“It was a difficult moment for him,” Mendes said. “We are all here to help and he was in a less good moment. The team felt that and, obviously, we have to help everyone. We are a very united group and that is what gave us more strength, so much so that [Portugal goalkeeper] Diogo [Costa] made three incredible saves [in the shootout]. It was a moment we won’t forget, but it’s not over yet.”