Euro 2016 has been all about France. The hosts have arguably produced the best football and have received the bulk of the media attention from start to finish.
France have taken the mantle of dream crushers at this tournament, from Dimitri Payet’s late winner against Romania to their demolition of Iceland, which ended that tiny nation’s Cinderella story, and they will be looking to put Portugal’s ambition of finally claiming a major trophy to the sword on Sunday.
The French have a well balanced team full of superstars, Antoine Griezmann has been ruthless in front of goal and looks a certainty to claim the golden boot, Payet has been inspired at times and add to those two names the likes of Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Hugo Lloris and you have an impression of France’s quality.
Les Bleus are also the tournament’s leading scorers with 13 goals, and have conceded only four, leaving Portugal facing an enormous task.
The Portuguese are as opposite to the French as can be. They have been far from impressive, scraping into the final winning only one game inside of 90 minutes, with star man Cristiano Ronaldo only showing glimpses of his prodigious talent.
France would do well not to underestimate the Seleção, though, who boast the likes of Ronaldo, Nani and Pepe in their lineup and will be hungry for success. They’ll certainly be going all out to spoil the French soirée.
Looking at past results, France and Portugal have clashed in three semi-finals in major tournaments dating all the way back to 1984, with Les Blues coming out on top on each occasion.
A repeat of the semi-final at Euro 1984, which France also hosted, would be more than welcome. The match boasted five goals, with the home side coming from 2-1 down in the last seven minutes of extra time to win 3-2.
Sixteen years later at Euro 2000, the scores were tied as extra time wound down, only for Portugal to concede a last-gasp penalty and hand France a 2-1 victory.
Fast forward six more years, and it was a 3-1 win for France in the World Cup in Germany, with another contentious penalty decision playing a part.
All in all, Portugal have lost the last 10 matches to France in all competitions, and while it’s hard to see that trend coming to an end on this occasion, they can not entirely be ruled out.
In Ronaldo, they have a player who has the ability to defy the odds and provide a certain X-factor, and this tournament has already provided two examples of teams defying history, with Germany finally beating Italy at a major event and France getting past Germany for the first time since 1958.
Major international finals are seldom high-scoring affairs, and yet past results between these two teams suggest goals could be in the offing.
It won’t be easy, and Portugal have plenty of untapped potential, but history and the form books suggest this championship is France’s for the taking.
France 2-1 Portugal