By Antony Jordan
This Sunday evening sees the conclusion of the 2016 European Championships as a side that finished third in their group behind Hungary and Iceland take on the host nation and the pre-tournament favourites to become the champions in Paris this weekend.
This match at the Stade de France will see the clash of Portugal and France for the third year running and with France winning both of the matches in 2014 and 2015, coupled with the massive home support and the fact that Portugal have won just a single match in 90 minutes at this tournament will see them come into this final full of confidence. Will they take their first title since 2000 or will Portugal win their first crown in their second ever final?
We preview this Euro 2016 final with online sportsbook Bet365.com as we provide our final Euro 2016 pick from this summer.
To Win (90 minutes):
To Lift the Trophy:
Route to the Final:
Euro 2016 is the seventh European Championship tournament that Portugal have competed at and they have reached the Quarter Finals on two occasions, the Semi Finals on three occasions and this final is the second occasion in which they have competed in the decider following their 1-0 defeat on home soil to Greece 12 years ago.
As they failed to win any of their first five matches in normal time (drawing with Iceland, Austria and Hungary in Group F before defeating Croatia 1-0 in extra time and eliminated Poland on penalties in the Quarter Finals) more and more people believed that Portugal would be eliminated in each match they played due to their lacking of killing off matches, but they have proven all the doubters wrong by reaching the final. Cristiano Ronaldo and co. secured their first win of the competition with an excellent second half performance against Wales in the semi-final with two quick fire goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani (who got away with an offside decision) sinking the hopes of the neutral’s favourites for the title. They have not performed at their best throughout the last month, but can they – and Cristiano Ronaldo especially – move up through the gears in their biggest match for 12 years?
France have had much more success with their results in this tournament as they topped Group A with wins, albeit late, late wins, over Romania and Albania in their opening two matches before they secured top spot in the group with a 0-0 draw with Switzerland. The knockout phase saw France need to comeback from a first minute goal conceded against Ireland to win 2-1 before recording the biggest win of the tournament against Iceland as they led 4-0 at half time and 5-2 at the final whistle. This brought the home nation into a final four stage clash with world champions Germany and despite the Germans dominating the first 45 minutes it was the French who led 1-0 at half time following a late handball and converted penalty. Antoine Griezmann scored the penalty and then added a second in the 72nd minute after some excellent work from Paul Pogba as they were, by far, the better side in the second half to secure their first final since they lifted the title 16 years ago in Rotterdam. Griezmann is the top scorer in the tournament with six goals, including doubles against Ireland and Germany, but will he fire France to their third European Championship title this Sunday?
Portugal manager Fernando Santos welcomes back the injured Pepe and suspended William Carvalho after they missed the match against Wales to see him have all 23 players once again available to him. Pepe will certainly slot straight back into the side, but with Danilo having done a good job as Carvalho’s replacement against Wales the manager will have plenty to think about for the defensive midfield position.
Didier Deschamps kept faith with the replacements for N’Golo Kanté and Adil Rami, who were suspended against Iceland, in the Semi Final against Germany and both continued to impress. As a result of this, both players stand a good chance to beginning the final too with Kanté and Rami missing out despite themselves having impressed in the early matches of the tournament. This will be the only selection issue for the French manager as all 23 players in the squad are available, but will he stick with this replacement duo?
France have had much the better of things in recent clashes with Portugal as they have won all of their last ten meetings and have won 18 and drawn one of the 24 meetings overall, with Portugal having claimed five wins. It is more than 40 years since Portugal last avoided defeat to France when they triumphed 2-0 in Paris in 1975 and since then three of the ten victories for France have seen them win in Euros ’84 and 2000 as well as the 2006 World Cup. The last two meetings over the last two years saw single goal victories for France in friendly matches, but now the pressure is truly on as the sides meet for the first occasion in a major final who’ll triumph?
Portugal have spent much of their tournament in defensive mode edging their way through the tournament to secure passage to this final match and this way of playing football comes directly from the manager. Under Fernando Santos, Portugal are unbeaten in their 13 competitive fixtures and eight of their nine wins have come by single-goal margins.
France are completely different and they’re the top scorers in this competition with 13 goals, winning half of their six matches by at least two goals, and as well as this they’ve won three of their previous four World Cup or European Championship finals. With the passionate home support cheering them on it will be the French who will come into this match full of confidence and with Antoine Griezmann and Dmitri Payet in the side they have two of the best players at Euro 2016 their confidence and belief will only be boosted further.
However, with Cristiano Ronaldo having scored a wonderful header to help secure Portugal’s passage to this deciding match of the 2016 European Championships and seeing his big personal rival, Lionel Messi, announce his retirement from international football with no title with Argentina he will see his as a chance to get one over on the Barcelona man. We’re sure that the Portuguese star man will do everything in his power to secure this title, especially after being part of the side that was beaten by Greece 12 years ago, but are his compatriots good enough to see off France?
We do not believe so as France have a better mindset, style of play and group of players so, as the Bet365 match odds suggest, we see this match going the way of the hosts. However, with Portugal capable of playing their strongest side in this match we cannot see France running away with this final and, if Portugal can close them down for long enough, there is certainly the chance that the nerves could get to the French.
Ultimately, France will have too much for Portugal in Paris this Sunday evening but we certainly see this being an entertaining final despite Ronaldo and co. playing some negative and defensive football.
Euro 2016 Picks Best Bet
Our best Euro 2016 Final bet is back France to beat Portugal @ 2.10 in the Bet365 Sportsbook!