Portugal vs. France
After a month of play, we have finally nailed it down to two teams. Portugal and France will compete on Sunday for the coveted Euro cup trophy. Arguably, both of these countries have successfully made it to the final undeservedly. France had a relatively easy route to the final from day one, with their only real competition arriving in the form of Germany in the semi-final. Portugal, on the other hand, have only won one of their six games in 90 minutes. Both other semi-finalists, Wales and Germany were much more deserving teams, but as history has told us, sport doesn’t always work that way.
France have had moments of absolute excellence in this tournament. Going forward, the French are nothing short of tormenting for their opposition’s defence. The Euro’s leading goal scorer, Antoine Griezmann, has played his team into the final on home soil and let’s not forget, the last time they were in this position, they won it. France has delivered unity to a country that was struggling to find its identity in recent months. Between terror attacks and major labour protests, France has found hope in the form of their national football team.
This match will be the battle of the number sevens. What can Griezmann and Ronaldo create for their respective teams? Portugal’s main source of attack is crosses into the box looking for Ronaldo or Nani, whereas France have a lot more diversity in their attacking movements. Defensively, France have been unorganized throughout the tournament and in their semi-final versus Germany they were lucky not to go down three-nil in the first half. In the second half, we caught glimpses of actual communication between the French back-line and there was a sense of determination that had previously been lacking. If France can bring that same intensity to Paris they will be able to keep Cristiano Ronaldo and friends out.
On their ridiculous run to the final, I have consistently said that Portugal do not deserve to be here. That being said, I can no longer dispute the position they have maneuvered themselves into. Portugal’s performance in their semi-final against Wales was tactically sound and their place in the final has been earned fairly. Beating the Welsh wasn’t an easy job. The game consisted of three minutes of great play by Portugal and a whole lot of gamesmanship after the two goals. I have no doubt that Portugal will bring another frustrating strategy to the table against France. It is my prediction that Portugal’s ability to slow down the game will play in their favour. The French will go forward with pace, but will struggle to get the same chances that they have been gifted in previous games with the reluctant style of football that Portugal like to play.
France will do their best to rise to the occasion on home soil, but they will fall just short. Portugal will win the 2016 European Championship on penalties.
Final score: Portugal 1 France 1 (Portugal win on penalties)
The 2016 European Championship is nearing its end. After three weeks of competition we have seen it all. There have been upsets of epic proportions, spectacular goals and heartbreak. In a few days’ time we will have a winner, and one of the four remaining countries will lift the Henri Delaunay trophy. The road to the final will not be an easy one for the two teams that prevail in their semi-finals, but it is bound to be thrilling.
Wales vs. Portugal
Let me start by saying that Portugal do not deserve to be in this position. They have made their way into the semi-finals without winning a single game in 90 minutes. Portugal have drawn four out of their five games, winning their round of 16 game in extra time and beating Poland in the quarters on penalties. That being said, the Portuguese have managed to put themselves into a Euro semi-final for a second consecutive time. Portugal have a decent squad and superstar captain Cristiano Ronaldo. They will also look to outstanding youngster Renato Sanches who equalized for them against Poland. If Portugal can play with more attacking finesse than previously, they still stand a chance. More likely however, they will play for a draw again, which will do them no favours against the unwavering Welsh.
Wales are living a dream right now. But unlike other fantasies, they have the ability to make this dream a reality. Since the beginning, the Welsh have taken one game at a time, never allowing themselves to think too far into the future. This pin-point focus will play in their favour, as Portugal will feel pressure to deliver after their shout-out exit to Spain in the 2012 semi-final. The Welsh will be a little bit worse for wear without midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will miss this match due to too many yellow cards. Although Wales have superstars on their team – namely Gareth Bale – they do not rely on them to win the game. The Welsh are the hardest working team in the tournament. They work for each other, and it is that work ethic that will help them make history by making it to the final in their first appearance at this tournament.
Final score: Wales 2 Portugal 0
France vs. Germany
France have been a tournament favourite since day one. As the host nation, they have responded to the pressure with gumption. France have proven that they have fire power up front. However, they are unstable and weak in defence. The lack of organization at the back will be their Achilles heel. The French will do their best to rise to the occasion in this match, looking to make it to another Euro cup final. The last time France hosted the prestigious tournament, they won it. I have no doubt that France will put out a fantastic performance in this match.
Germany are the team to beat in this tournament. The reigning World Cup champions have been nothing short of perfect so far. Despite a bad handball from Boateng against Italy, Germany have been excellent at the back. Up front, they have power and finesse. Özil has shown composure for the Germans when it matters most and will be key in their attempt to make it to the final.
This game will be played with high intensity and passion. France and Germany will both press hard up front, which could leave them vulnerable at the back. Germany are more organized at the back, but France have a more successful goal-scoring ability. This game will be decided down to the wire, and Germany will prevail in extra time.
Final score: Germany 3 France 2
photo sourced via www.independent.co.uk