Sunday, 10 July 2016

France vs Portugal - 2016 UEFA European Championship Final

What an occasion, a month ago today I sat in my front room preparing for the opening game of the tournemant against Romania, excited to see what all of the competitors had on offer. What players could light up the Euro's this year, what match defining moment, even career defining would light up our television screens.

Les Blues have grown in the footballing world, whilst unconvincing in the groups, the resilience of their budding stars became ever present. Clinching last minute wins, a great characteristic show for such a young side.

Portugal have been on the other side of the spectrum, quite the opposite in performances having been branded "The Ugly Side" by their home nation media outlets. It is working though, new ruling allowed third place to take an extra shot at progressing and they took it, and here they are.

In their respective semi finals, both picked up on the oppositions mistakes and clinically dealt blows as the both ran out 2-0 victors. Most will say France had the much harder opponents, with Portugal's opponents Wales running out of steam.

In the last 10 match ups between the two sides, it is not good reading for Ronaldo and Co as they crumbled every time, failing to even record a draw. Another worrying statistic for the Portuguese is their three winless run in finals against the French, we are sure Fernando Santos will hope to banish history repeating itself.

Le Blues have no suspended players, everyone back fit and ready they remained unchanged from the side that took on Germany.

France Line-Up: Lloris; Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet; Giroud

Portugal will be happy to see the return of centre back Pepe, alongside with defensive midfielder Carvalho it will be sure to bolster the side that beat Wales comfortably.

Porugal Line-Up: Patricio; Cédric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Carvalho; Mário, Adrien Silva, Renato Sanches; Ronaldo, Nani

As kick off looms and all fans tune in, we all hope this can top off a fairly average Euro's, without dampening spirits we are yet to be amazed. Stade de France beckons.

Portugal look every bit happy to do what they have been doing in every game so far, constricting play in the centre of the park, leaving Nani or Ronaldo up on the France back line and looking for the threat on the break. France will have a tough time breaking down such a nasty, sturdy defence and one will wonder if this will be decided after 90 minutes.

The highlight of the build up was that of the moth invasion, with myself thinking that it would take over as the key news if the match was to drag. It wasn't far wrong, as Portugal struggled in possession, happy to let France come at them with little to show for as a whole. Key chances go to Griezmann and Sissoko, much was repeated as the pair look the biggest threats.


The talk of the first half, maybe the game if things don't go Portugal's way is the devastating injury to Cristiano Ronaldo, damaging his left knee as he clashed with West Ham play-maker Dimitri Payet. As he was stretchered off, a great deal of the crowd clapped and chanted his name, knowing a great of the game was leaving the pitch. The game deserved a "Ronaldo" and he deserved to play the final.


The change was made and on came Besiktas winger Quaresma, a change in game plan for Portugal as Santos shifted his team into a make shift 4-5-1 formation, leaving Nani as a lone striker and dropping Sanches into a midfield three. This change actually benefited the visitors greatly, with more players in a packed centre of the park they improved and finally settled into the game.
The second half didn't really add much more, and emphasized the tournemant on a whole, unassuming with a real lack of raw ability. Something to put into perspective is that when changes were made, Eder and Gignac were officially the "Number 9's" of the Euro 2016 final from Lille and Tigres. I have found myself in similar positions in other games, struggling to amass anything more than a snore.

In fairness, both did the jobs set by their managers. Eder was using his only talent to good use, holding up the ball to allow Portugal to come further up the pitch. The latter Gignac to link up the play and lead the line in what seemed to escape Giroud. Of the whole second half, Gignac in fairness did come close, partly through a mistake. Turning Cedric on the slide tackle, attempted to roll the ball only to scuff it near post, hitting the bar. Replays would show that if clear connection had been made Patricio had it covered, like most of the French attempts this game.


Sadly, extra time held little more excitement, cat and mouse was in effect, as extra time threw away the safety net, both managers evidently settling for a moment of magic. Clattenburg hurried on the two team huddles both happy to get the team talks out.

"Settling for a moment of magic" I said it myself, and of all the people to pull it out of the hat, Eder. No other way to put it, the French League player bounced off the Blues defenders, before thumping home a low strike into the bottom right of Lloris' goal.
Portugal seemed to find an extra gear from out of nowhere, stumbling up to the end of extra time and the goal just lifted the team. A quote from Santos "to win ugly and be here is better than to lose nicely and be sat at home" added insult to injury for France. The game plan was in motion from the first whistle.

Yes, Portugal played dirty. Yes, France were the better team. But they took their chance, symbolized by Pepe throwing up on the side of the pitch, heart and desire shown in pure animalistic form. Portugal are European champions, despite losing Ronaldo after 25 minutes, despite winning one match in 90 minutes, despite looking like they could lose 4-0 in the first 10 minutes.

As France received their runners up medals, you couldn't help but feel for them losing in their own country, a harsh game. No one remembers second place though, and as Ronaldo and his comrades lift the trophy you can see that this is a team, not just one man. Congratulations Portugal.






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