France (Jack Rodway)
It’s finally here, after one month of great moments but not such great football, host nation France meets Portugal at the Stade de France to draw the curtain on this year’s European Championships.
No doubt the French will be going into this game as hot favourites and there will certainly be a high level of expectancy from the home crowd on the men in blue tonight. Having won the last ten meetings between the two nations, this is a foregone conclusion for the French, right? Wrong, as we know in these European finals things don’t always go to plan, just ask the Portuguese, I’m sure they can let you all know about what happened in 2004.
Since the group stage, France’s route to the final has been inspired by one man in particular, Antoine Griezmann. With six goals already, and five goals in the three knockout games, Griezmann is all but guaranteed to become this Euro’s top scorer, but it will mean very little to him if the French can’t get over the final hurdle tonight. Having been largely disregarded as a football player in France as a youngster, he moved to Spain to build a career for himself. So, if it wasn’t for the Spanish would France even be in this position to win yet another international title on home soil?
You would imagine that Didier Deschamps will keep an unchanged starting XI from the semi-final victory against Germany, where they proved they have another side to their game. Long periods chasing the ball meant they needed to be resolute and determined in defence and slick and efficient on the counter attack. Today expect a complete role reversal, with France dominating the ball and Portugal looking to hit them on the counter.
Match Prediction: France 2-1 Portugal
Billed as Griezmann vs Ronaldo, but in reality we all know this game is much more than a personal duel. Both defences have looked secure in the knockout phase of the tournament and with Pepe returning from injury this could prove key for the Portuguese. However, with everything that has happened in France in the past year, you just feel that winning this final is meant to be. It is going to be tough, it’s going to be tense and nervy, but the French will have just enough to sneak over the line and add a third European Championship to their trophy cabinet.
Portugal (Scott Brotherton)
Well I wasn’t expecting this. I thought, with Ronaldo and his mediocre supporting cast, the Portuguese would be out well in time for my holiday to Greece.
But not to be. Players like Nani, Renato Sanches and William Carvalho have really stepped up in the latter stages of the tournament. And let’s remember that after all of the discussion on the expansion pre-Euro 2016, it is Group F’s third-placed team that is in the final. A nation that finished below relative minnows Hungary and Iceland.
So to tonight. France are the obvious favourites but Fernando Santos’ men have shown they are capable of performing on the big stage, beating dark horses Croatia, Poland and Wales on their way to the final. And with Ronaldo on the ball anything is possible.
Where I will watch it?
On the lovely island of Zakynthos, Greece. There are no shortage of bars to watch the action in here, even if the Greek national team hardly gives the locals much to cheer about when it comes to football. But the Greeks, led by players like Charisteas and Karagounis, managed an upset in Lisbon against Portugal the last time a host nation reached the final. And Portugal play the hosts today. And I’m in Greece. There are plenty of omens if anyone is looking for them!
Prediction: France 0-1 Portugal
I expect a cagey game and just one goal to be the difference. But I’ve seen just enough vulnerability in the French defence to give me confidence to back my boys for this one! And inspired by the heroics of the Greek win in Euro 2004, I’ll go for the lovely symmetry of another 1-0 here.