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)