With the dismantling of Germany, the France have not only secured a date with Portugal, but also they have sent out a reminder to the Iberian nation that they are the sternest test that Fernando Santos’ men have faced till now. Unlike Poland, Croatia and Wales, the French possess loads of firepower and an unbreakable bond between the players which has only been strengthened since the deadly attacks in Paris last year. While Croatia battled their own fans, the French public has been vociferously backing its national team. As Poland were starved of goals due to the underwhelming performance of their star striker, Robert Lewandowski, the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet have provided plenty of them to their team. And while Wales were living a dream, the French are simply focused on doing what is expected of them. This is not to say that France have been guaranteed to lift the Euro Cup at State de France. If anything, 2016 has been a year that showed it doesn’t matter if you play better football, it’s the teams who know how to win that ultimately triumph.
History Beckons: Portugal or France?
The finals of English League Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League are an indictment of this fact. And Portugal do know how to win, how they do it is another matter altogether, but a fact which should be remembered by Didier Deschamps as he plans his opponent’s downfall.
Playing Ugly but playing in a final
With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Renato Sanches and others in their ranks, it was expected that Portugal would be a far better brand of football that they have dished out now. Fernando Santos has clearly displayed his preference of football built on the base of sound defending. He doesn’t care a tiny about the flair and excitement that the likes of Ronaldo provide their fans and has been indifferent to criticism from the Pundits and Journalists alike. “It (the criticism) is music to my ears”, he has proclaimed in one of his earlier press conferences. And the results have been evidence of his philosophy bearing the desired fruit. Their presence in finals is something that the likes of Croatia would happily trade at the altar of beautiful style that ultimately saw them crash out of the championship.True, luck has favored the Iberian nation heavily, but to dismiss all the achievements to luck would be unjustified. Apart from their defensive solidity, the hardwork put in by their captain Ronaldo is something that his fans worldwide are not accustomed to, but a trait that has seen him lauded by those looking on from the sidelines. His personality has shone through too. While Messi took the first penalty which sadly missed the back of the net, Ronaldo’s penalty set the tone for his team. His coaxing of Joao Moutinho has also been one of the talking points of the Portugal team. The win in the final therefore, would be deserving to him and his career. Apart from Ronaldo, Nani’s form has also been noteworthy. While he may have decided their encounter against Wales, his goalscoring return has been marginal before it. But with Nani stepping up and taking charge, the lack of goals from the captain has been hardly felt by the team. Pepe,quite remarkably hasn’t imploded as he had in World Cup that saw him see red and end his participation in the event. All this are a tribute to Fernando Santos’ man management skills which have been remarkably unappreciated till now. Whether all this factors would decide the match in Portugal’s favour is anybody’s guess but their run to the semifinals though is something that their talent had owed to their country.
Aggressive attack,resolute defence and commendable team spirit, hosts France the complete package
While Portugal maybe the toughest challenge yet for Didier Deschamps and his men, the same can be said of their opponents too. While Portugal are in the finals, they haven’t faced any teams equal, if not better, to their quality. Having avoided the likes of Italy and Germany, their team face a formidable foe in the form of France. From Antoine Griezmann to Samuel Umtiti, the French possess strong alternatives in all the areas of the pitch. With likes of yohan Cabaye , N’Golo Kante and others on the pitch, they have been the complete package in this tournament. Starting sluggishly against Romania, the hosts finally burst into life on the attacking front in their last three matches. With the likes of Antoine Griezmann among the goals and Paul Pogba back into form, they look in ominous form for Portugal.Stopping them will not be easy for Santos’ men and scoring against them will be equally difficult. The midfield, boasting the likes of Dimitri Payet possess the skill to unlock the defense from dead ball situations, something that has not threatened Pepe and Co till now. In the form of Barcelona bound Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna, they are a significant hurdle for the likes of Renato Sanches. The scoring aspect of the opponents of Les Bleus hasn’t been prolific by any means and if they grab an early lead, Fernando Santos might be tempted to take a gamble which would provide the perfect opportunity for the likes of Olivier Giroud and Co to open the floodgates.
The last two European crowns for France have come on home soil. To bet against a third would need significant courage. History beckons for both the teams, who creates it will unfold on Sunday.