Euro 2024: Portugal brings title-winning experience to face knockout rounds newcomer Slovenia

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Portugal plays Slovenia on Monday in the round of 16 at the European Championship. The game kicks off at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt. The winner will advance to face Belgium or France in the quarterfinals on Friday. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— Portugal starts the group stage with wins over the Czech Republic and Turkey, then rests some starters in the third game and loses 2-0. Sound familiar? Portugal started Euro 2008 just as it has 16 years later. Then, Portugal did not get momentum back and was eliminated in the first knockout round — to a Germany team heading to the final. Slovenia is a different kind of test.

— Slovenia will play its first knockout game at a major tournament in 32 years as an independent soccer nation. Slovenia went home after the group stage at Euro 2000, and the World Cups of 2002 and 2010, though only the top two advanced at those tournaments.

— Slovenia started Euro 2024 the same way eventual champion Portugal did in 2016: three straight draws, no wins in the group to advance among the best third-place teams.

— Portugal already has more wins in 90 minutes at this tournament (2) than in its 2016 title-winning campaign (1).

— Frankfurt hosts its fifth and final game and is not a city where favorites thrive. So far here, Belgium lost to Slovakia, England played poorly in a draw against Denmark, and Germany needed a stoppage-time equalizer against Switzerland.

Team news

— At the 2022 World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped to the bench for the round of 16 game that Portugal won 6-1 against Switzerland. His replacement Gonçalo Ramos scored a hat trick. That was by then-coach Fernando Santos. Ronaldo is in better standing with current coach Roberto Martinez and Ramos got just 24 game minutes off the bench so far.

— Josip Iličić has not started a game for Slovenia but the 36-year-old’s return to the national team has been a positive story. The former Atalanta player’s career was derailed by depression he suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Iličić came on as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with England on Tuesday.

By the numbers

— This is the second most lopsided mismatch by FIFA world rankings of the round of 16. There are 51 ranking places between No. 6 Portugal and No. 57 Slovenia but 66 between No. 8 Spain and No. 74 Georgia.

— 2-0. The score Slovenia beat Portugal by in March when they played a friendly in Ljubljana.

— Slovenia lost just once in 15 games over the past year, a 2-1 defeat in Denmark last November in their qualifying group.

— Only Germany had more attempts on goal than Portugal’s 54 in the group stage. Only Scotland had fewer than Slovenia’s 25. Slovenia star forward Benjamin Šeško had five of those attempts without scoring yet.

— Portugal defender Pepe continues to extend his tournament record as the oldest-ever player. He will be aged 41 years and 126 days on Monday.

— Cristiano Ronaldo, who turned 39 in February, will set the record as the oldest ever scorer if and when he gets his first goal at Euro 2024. The record is held by Luka Modric, scoring against Italy on Monday at age 38 years and 289 days.

What they’re saying

— “He’s going to be very good for this knockout phase of the tournament, and I hope — or I’m sure —that he’ll give us a lot of joy.” — Pepe praises Ronaldo

— “Two years ago, we played against Serbia and we lost 4-1 in Belgrade. This was a turning point and since then we’ve only grown as a team.” — Slovenia midfielder Adam Gnezda Čerin


AP Euro 2024:

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