France vs Portugal factbox: Euro 2016 finalists’ form guide

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July 09, 2016 6:21 PM

Portugal will face hosts France in the final of Euro 2016 on Sunday. Here is a guide to the form of the two teams, looking at their strengths and weaknesses.

Portugal will face hosts France in the final of Euro 2016 on Sunday. Here is a guide to the form of the two teams, looking at their strengths and weaknesses.

PORTUGAL A combination of tactical discipline, determination and moments of inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo have taken Portugal to the final. Portugal’s approach has been cautious rather than defensive, but even so, their performances have failed to endear them to the neutrals and they go into the final as outsiders.

They drew all their group games and were heading for an early exit as they trailed to Hungary before scraping a 3-3 draw which took them through as one of the best third-placed teams. Their 2-0 semi-final win over Wales was their only victory inside 90 minutes at the tournament. Even so, they are unbeaten in 13 competitive internationals since Fernando Santos took over as coach early in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Santos has fine-tuned his team as the competition has gone on. The main changes have included replacing Ricardo Carvalho with Jose Fonte at centre back and Vieirinha with Cedric Soares at right back. Adrien Silva, who has played in all the knockout games, has added some extra bite in midfield. Eighteen-year-old Renato Sanches has started the last two games while the gifted Joao Moutinho has fallen by the wayside. Ronaldo still plays a central role.

He does his share of running off the ball but, in return, is still allowed to take all free kicks within shooting range and penalties.

FRANCE

France started the tournament in sluggish fashion, needing late rallies to grind out victories, with a defence showing signs of nerves. Coach Didier Deschamps tinkered with his team, trying out several players and systems before finding the right formula, a 4-2-3-1 formation with Antoine Griezmann playing close to Olivier Giroud up front.

Deschamps, who captained France to their 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 triumphs, picked the same starting lineup for the host nation’s last two games, a 5-2 quarter-final win over Iceland and a 2-0 victory over world champions Germany in the semis. He is expected to field an unchanged team to face Portugal in Sunday’s final.

France’s form has improved from match to match, with Griezmann, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, emerging as their most dangerous player. The Atletico Madrid forward has scored more than any other player at one European Championship since France’s Michel Platini hit a record nine at the 1984 finals. France boosted their confidence by recording their first victory over Germany in a competitive match in 58 years.

Griezmann was key, scoring both their goals, but their defence, regarded as their weakest point, also fared well under sustained Germany pressure and goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris made a couple of great saves. Gifted midfielder Paul Pogba lacks consistency but has been decisive on several occasions, notably against Germany with the move which led to Griezmann’s second goal.

Every France player showed they could raise the level of their game when it mattered with the notable exception of Dimitri Payet, who was brilliant earlier in the tournament but went missing against Germany. Deschamps has been instrumental in France’s run to the final, making shrewd, tactical moves and raising his voice when it mattered to turn a collection of big egos into a tight unit showing solidarity on and off the pitch.

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