Portugal v France: a galactic battle lost in the black hole of one man’s ego

This Euro 2024 clash could have been an all-time great quarter-final, and instead a part of it was stolen

Even his absence feels like a kind of presence. The cameras continue to seek him out. The fans in the stands in their replica Manchester United tops screech a little louder, scowl a little harder. The less he does, the important he becomes. The more he disappears into this game, the heavier it feels, like a black hole sucking everything into its vortex.

And ultimately Portugal too. The sabotage is complete. One of the most talented squads ever assembled at this level of football disappears into that self same black hole, a Vegas-era Elvis act ultimately notable only for its ability to make us gawp and keep gawping. It’s too awful to watch. It’s too awful not to watch. The clock ticks into its third hour, the second quarter-final suspended like a sentence that can never end, and yet with the knowledge of exactly how it ends. Meanwhile, Gonçalo Ramos and Diogo Jota sit on the bench.

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