Hosts France meet dark horses Portugal in the most prestigious game in European football at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis this evening.
France are looking to win their third European title, looking to follow 1984 under the inspiration of Michel Platini and in 2000 after David Trezeguet’s golden goal. Portugal are looking to win their first ever major honour. The last time they reached this stage in the European Championships, they hosted the tournament in 2004, losing to surprise packages Greece in the final in Lisbon.
Portugal, finally, turned on the style in their semi-final glory against Wales having been dull and dire throughout the course of the tournament. Goals from captain Cristiano Ronaldo and his fellow forward Nani in quick succession early in the second-half put the Welsh side to the sword. France, have contradicted Portugal and been in top gear for nearly the entire tournament so far. They overcame the tough task of defending World champions Germany in Marseille by the same scoreline. An Antione Griezmann double – one in either half, was enough to kill off the World Champions, who were dominant for large parts of the game.
Neither team has any suspensions. William Carvalho missed out on the semi-final having picked up his second yellow of the tournament in the quarter-final but no such rule applies after the semi-final games. Key defender Pepe also missed out on a semi-final spot through injury but says he has fully recovered and available for selection in the final. France have no significant injury concerns.
Antoine Griezmann has been amongst the stars of the tournament so far for France. His six goals have earned praise from the international media. Only Michel Platini has more goals at a single tournament than he does.
Hugo Lloris has been another shining light; the captain made some crucial saves to shut out Germany in the previous round and will be important again against Portugal. Olivier Giroud hasn’t received the respect he deserves at this tournament but has been a key cog in this well-oiled French machine. His three goals and two assists have be vital in France’s run so far. His aerial superiority also causes lots of trouble for opposition defences.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani each have three goals so far in the tournament and complement each other well in attack. The golden boot seems a long shot for the two but the worry of missing out on that will be erased with a success in the final. 18-year-old Renato Sanches has eclipsed several other stars expected to shine at the tournament with his bravery and strength on the ball. His dribbling skills are a testament to why Bayern were willing to pay such a hefty fee for him.
ROUTE TO THE FINAL:
Group Stages: Portugal 1-1 Iceland; Portugal 0-0 Austria; Portugal 3-3 Hungary – One of 4 best third-placed teams
Round of 16: Portugal 1-0 Croatia (AET)
Quarter-Finals: Portugal 1-1 Poland (5-3 PSO)
Semi-Finals: Portugal 2-0 Wales
Group Stages: France 2-1 Romania; France 2-0 Albania; France 0-0 Switzerland – Top of Group A
Round of 16: France 2-1 Republic of Ireland
Quarter-Finals: France 5-2 Iceland
Semi-Finals: France 2-0 Germany
PREDICTED STARTING TEAMS:
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric Soares, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Renato Sanches, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo
France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Evra; Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Dimitri Payet, Moussa Sissoko, Antoine Griezmann; Olivier Giroud
PRE MATCH FACTS:
- France have won the last ten games between the two sides, most recently a friendly in Lisbon in September 2015 in which Mathieu Valbuena scored the only goal. Their last competitive encounter also ended 1-0 in France’s favour, a Zinédine Zidane penalty enough to end Portugal’s 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign in the semi-finals.
- This is Portugal’s third game at the Stade de France; they previously lost 4-0 (April 2001) and 2-1 (October 2014) to Les Bleus at the home of the French national team.
- France are playing in their fifth EURO or World Cup final; they won the first three (2-0 v Spain, UEFA EURO 1984; 3-0 v Brazil, 1998 World Cup; 2-1 v Italy UEFA EURO 2000) before losing the most recent on penalties following a 1-1 draw against Italy in the 2006 World Cup final.
- The winners have kept a clean sheet in the last three European Championship finals.
- The last European Championships final to go into extra time was the 2000 edition, when France beat Italy 2-1 thanks to David Trezeguet’s golden goal.
- France have been the most prolific nation at the Euros, scoring 13 goals at a rate of 2.17 per game; Portugal’s eight have come at a rate of 1.33 per game. France have a +9 goal difference; Portugal’s is +3.
- Portugal have played the most games (34) in the history of the European Championships without ever winning the tournament.
WHAT THEY SAID:
“I’ve said before that our objective was to play in the final and win it. We have great belief because we want to make the Portuguese people happy. We want to give them something to celebrate.” – Fernando Santos, Portugal coach
“We have this opportunity to become European champions. Whether you’re 18, 20 or much older, there’s a chance to win a title and we need to seize it without thinking about what might happen in the future. The players know they’re privileged to be playing the EURO 2016 final at home in Paris.” – Didier Deschamps, France coach