Here we are – what started a month ago as a 24 nation tournament is now left with two teams fighting for the title. Euro 2016 will come to a grand conclusion at the Stade de France on Sunday, July 10 as host nation France will clash with the surprising finalists Portugal.
France were considered as one of the favorites but had an unconvincing progress in the tournament. They relied on the brilliance of Dimitri Payet in the initial stages to remain unbeaten while the knockouts saw the free-scoring form of Antoine Griezmann. It was only against Iceland in the quarter-finals that France played at their best. Against the giant killers of the tournaments, the hosts went rampant and ended up comfortable 5-2 winners. If they were brilliant against Iceland, France were tactically astute and resilient against Germany in the semi-finals. Pitted against arch-nemesis, France had to weather some early attacks from the Germans before taking lead through Griezmann just before the break. The forward doubled the lead on the other side of the break poking home from close quarters. Germany camped in the France half in the later stages of the game but Hugo Lloris in the French goal stood like a rock repelling every attack.
Portugal’s journey to the final was anything but exciting. Ending up the group stage without a win and qualifying only as one of the best third-placed teams, Portugal were expected to lose in the first knock out round. But Cristiano Ronaldo inspired team decided to tempt fate and tease the critics with narrow victories over Croatia and Poland. Their performance was never a comfort even to their supporters but the resilience they have shown in staying in the hunt was exemplary. Their best performance was reserved for Wales in the semi-finals where they were once again expected to lose. Wales were the better team in the first half but were let down by poor finishing. And Portugal hurt them in the second half with super star Ronaldo soaring high and scoring from a towering header. To make things worse for Wales, Nani added a second to literally shutting the gate on them. Portugal not just kept Gareth Bale quiet but also managed to bring their best game when needed the most.
France have managed to unearth more than one superstar in the tournament with Payet and Griezmann leading the charge. Even Paul Pogba who was off color at the beginning is coming into his own and looked the real deal in the last couple of matches. The performance of Hugo Lloris under the bars has gone unnoticed but he is a huge presence for the hosts. Portugal on the other hand have managed to somehow challenge conventional wisdom by progressing so far. Ronaldo hasn’t been at his best but still found crucial goals while Nani and Ricardo Quaresma have alternated good performances with poor ones. Portugal still look wobbly against a settled French side who should start as favorites.
France are unbeaten in their last ten matches with just the draw against Switzerland being the sore point.
For Portugal, the win against Wales in the last match was the only occasion in the last six matches where they moved beyond a draw.
Key players and team news
For the hosts, Samuel Umtiti had given enough reasons to keep Adil Rami out but N’Golo Kante may continue to remain on the sidelines. Griezmaan will continue to be under limelight while Olivier Giroud should continue to lead the line.
Portugal will be boosted by the return of Pepe at the heart of the defense. William Carvalho should also be back in contention to start after serving his suspension. Ronaldo will be the main attraction but look out for another exciting display from Renato Sanches.
France have won nine of their last ten encounters while Portugal won just two of their last eight matches. Both teams are unbeaten in the Euros but while France have kept winning games, Portugal were content with drawing matches. Another result looks likely in normal time; back France to win the title.
France have scored 13 goals in the six matches so far in the Euros with just one goal less match. Portugal scored seven goals in the tournament with two goal less games. Except one high scoring game each (France against Iceland and Portugal against Hungary), these two teams have been usually frugal. Back the teams to end with over 2.5 goals.
France to win in regular time at odds of 2.05 with Betfred.