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France Euro 2016 form
- GS – Defeated Romania 2-1
- GS – Defeated Albania 2-0
- GS – Drew with Switzerland 0-0
- 16 – Defeated Republic of Ireland 2-1
- QF – Defeated Iceland 5-2
- SF – Defeated Germany 2-0
Portugal Euro 2016 form
- GS – Drew with Iceland 1-1
- GS – Drew with Austria 0-0
- GS – Drew with Hungary 3-3
- 16 – Defeated Croatia 1-0 (AET)
- QF – Defeated Poland 1-1 (5-3 P)
- SF – Defeated Wales 2-0
France – $2
Draw – $3.10
Portugal – $4.50
Odds by Sportsbet.com.au
After four fascinating weeks of highlights, lowlights, upsets and triumphs, it’s time to decide the 2016 European Championship once and for all.
France, despite a few nervy moments in the group stage, have lived up to every expectation.
Since coming from a goal down to dispatch a plucky Ireland side in the round of 16, les Bleus have looked like the titleists elect.
Their big guns have fired in a big way, and none more so than Antoine Griezmann.
The Atletico Madrid forward netted twice in the semifinal win over Germany to take his tournament tally to six goals – three more than his closest rivals for the Golden Boot.
It was a depleted German outfit that trotted out in Marseille, missing mainstays such as Mario Gomez, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira through a mix of injuries and suspension.
But the French could argue they’ve gone through the entire tourney without their best XI, given Lassana Diarra, Jeremy Mathieu, Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane withdrew in the weeks prior.
They are also without Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena, whose off-field issues saw them excluded from consideration, while Hatem Ben Arfa was controversially overlooked.
That hasn’t stopped France scoring 13 goals in only six games. The only other team to reach double figures so far is Wales, with 10.
Now on the verge of steering his nation to a record-equalling third European Championship title, Didier Deschamps reckons his charges have already made history – no matter what happens in Paris on Sunday.
“It was a long time since we’d beaten Germany but that didn’t mean anything today. We’re into the final and there’s a trophy up for grabs,” the France coach said after the semifinal win on Thursday night.
“I’m delighted for the players, it was a very tough game against a team who made us suffer but we suffered together.
“When you see the passion and the fervour in the stands around the ground… This team has everything it takes to be loved. It’s a great emotion – we had to suffer but never gave up and that’s great for me.
“This is a great story – the players wrote history by knocking out Germany. We don’t have the power to solve people’s problems but we can generate emotions so they forget their worries. We generate passion and fervour, we can see that.”
France will look to harness that home-crowd energy on Sunday when they encounter one of European football’s great enigmas.
In any other year, with any other qualification format, Portugal would not have made it this far.
Before their semifinal clash on Wednesday, the Seleccao had not won a single game in regular time at the Euro 2016 finals.
They failed to beat any of Austria, Hungary and Iceland in the group stage, and yet were rewarded with a spot in the soft side of the knockout draw.
It took a clumsy extra-time winner to get past Croatia in the round of 16 and a penalty shootout to eliminate Poland in the quarters.
Many expected more of the same in the last four when they faced a free-scoring Wales side led by Gareth Bale.
But it was another Real Madrid star who grabbed the headlines as Portugal, at long last, decided it was time to get a result in 90 minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo turned the game on its head early in the second half, opening the scoring with a powerful header before setting up Nani (albeit fortuitously) to poke home three minute later.
CR7 now has three goals for Euro 2016 – his best haul at a major tournament – and is rated a $6.50 chance at Sportsbet to bag the first in the final.
But not everybody is dancing to Ronaldo’s tune.
The win over Wales did nothing to assuage the notion that Madrid’s greatest ever goalscorer is a one-man band whose self-serving play is ultimately detrimental to Portugal’s football.
As former England defender Paul Parker put it in his Eurosport column: “I can’t find a good reason why Portugal winning the tournament would make me feel good about life or my Sunday dinner.
“All we are hearing about Portugal is Cristiano Ronaldo when you have 10 other players on the pitch. He has always made it all about him when it is a team sport.
“They are a very poor team who lack a striker.”
Euro 2016 final betting tips
- France to win – $2 at Sportsbet
- Correct score 2-0 France – $9 at CrownBet
France should do what they did at the 1998 World Cup and lift the trophy on home soil. Their attack is too good, their midfield too strong and their goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, a very hard man to beat. Portugal have talented attacking players, but is there any coherent system there besides ‘give it to Ronaldo’? France to get it done in regulation time.
Antoine Griezmann goalscorer odds
- First goalscorer – $4.60 at CrownBet
- To score a hat-trick – $34 at CrownBet
Griezmann’s form at France 2016 has drawn comparisons to the great Michel Platini, who scored nine goals at the 1984 Euro finals. The Atleti man needs a treble on Sunday to match that record. He might not quite manage that much, but he’s a red-hot prospect to get on the scoresheet.
Cristiano Ronaldo specials online
- Portugal’s first goal – $4 at Sportsbet
- First goalscorer + Portugal win – $7.50 at Sportsbet
Like him or not, Ronaldo is a wizard in front of goal. He’s the most complete finisher in football and perhaps the best header of a ball going around. If Portugal pull off something special, the Madrid man will be involved in one way or another.
Possible France & Portugal team lineups
France: Lloris, Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny, Evra, Matuidi, Pogba, Sissoko, Payet, Griezmann, Giroud.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Pereira, Mario, Sanchez, Adrien Silva, Nani, Ronaldo.
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