France will be looking to secure their first piece of silverware since 2000 when they take on Portugal on Sunday evening.
It has been exactly a month since the Euros kicked off, and boy it’s been a great tournament to watch. The fairytale of Iceland, cracking goals left right and centre, and some of the strangest hairdos to ever grace a football field, have all contributed towards making this a tournament we’ll never forget. There is still one game to go, however, and it’s the big one.
While it’s sure to be a fantastic final, I’m going to try and sweeten it for us by finding a winner! Let’s begin our search, shall we?
Portugal v France | Sunday 10 July | Stade de France | 21:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Portugal 33/10 | Draw 21/10 | France 1/1
To Lift Cup
Portugal 16/10 | France 9/20
A lot has been made of Portugal’s path to the final. Ronaldo and co have only won a solitary game in normal time at the tournament. While this is absolutely mind boggling, it does say something about the Portuguese defensive set up; it’s been as miserly as Scrudge McDuff.
‘A Selecao’ have only conceded five goals at the tournament and only one in their three knockout games. Their centre-halves have really impressed with Southampton man Jose Fonte putting in a great shift during Portugal’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Wales. Fonte may well find himself back on the Portuguese bench this Sunday, though, as Real Madrid hardman, Pepe, has overcome a slight knock that kept him out of the semi-final.
The Portuguese midfield also looked to have clicked into gear against Wales with Bayern Munich’s recent acquisition from Sporting Lisbon, Renato Sanchez, pulling the strings on Wednesday. The wonderkid may find the going a lot harder against a French midfield that features Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. Sanchez will be helped in his quest for midfield domination by William Carvalho who returns from a one-match suspension.
You can’t really do a Portuguese football preview without giving at least a paragraph to the arrogance and majesty of Cristiano Ronaldo. While I do think some of his efforts from free-kicks have bordered on the absurd, the Real Madrid man has managed to have a huge influence on games. Yes, he’s been a selfish git at times, but his quality as generally shone through. Laurent Koscielny will have to ensure he’s on his game both in general play and from set pieces as Ronaldo perfectly illustrated just how good he is in the air with that headed goal in the semi.
I have to admit this off the bat, I’m a huge fan of this Les Bleu side. While I’ve always had a soft spot for the French football team – I’m an Arsenal fan and Thierry Henry made me fall in love with football, so naturally I gravitated towards Le Bleu’- I wasn’t really that into the side that featured the likes of Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema. Both are fantastic footballers but they are also not the nicest humans to ever have walked the planet. This current French squad, on the other hand, seem like a bunch of decent blokes who are really starting to click as a team.
I think ‘team’ is the key word for France going into this final. While Portugal have a real world beater in the form of Ronaldo, France have a superior team unit. Their midfield is brilliant, their back four are solid, they have a great shot stopper in Hugo Llrois, and their front three have linked up beautifully. The French also have a bench that is capable of turning a game on its head, with Bayern youngster Kingsley Coleman the biggest attacking threat on the pine.
France will probably look to Giroud and Griezmann to provide the goals. The duo’s link up play has been outstanding at the tournament with the Arsenal man acting as a sounding board for Griezmann to bounce off of.
While Griezmann will look to get on the end of some neatly worked one-twos with his fellow front men, Giroud will offer a link as well as an aerial threat in the opposition box. The well-built centre forward will be hoping to latch on to a few quality balls from West Ham sensation Dimitri Payet whose set piece delivery is right out of the top draw. Speaking of Payet, Portugal will do well to ensure they don’t give any free kicks away just outside the box as the diminutive forward is noted for producing sublime goals from dead ball situations.
The Stats That Matter
Both sides come into this one without any suspensions or fresh injury news. France have made it through to two European Championship finals winning both of them. They won the 1984 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup on home soil. Portugal have only ever made one appearance in a European Championship final going down to Greece by a goal to nil in 2004.
Antoine Griezmann currently leads the race for the golden boot. The Atletico Madrid man has scored six goals and looks assured of claiming the accolade.
Both sides come into this one without any suspensions or fresh injury news.
Verdict: France (90 Mins) 1/1
I fancy the French to get the business done in normal time. The Giroud/Griezmann axis is functioning like a well-oiled machine and their midfield is probably the best one going in international football. Back the French to win the game without extra time of penalties at evens.