So the European Championships will come to an end on Sunday with hosts France set to take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to see who lifts the trophy.
Both teams have made interesting journeys to the final, with Portugal, who many have declared ‘lucky’, overcoming the team of the moment Wales.
Their first win in 90 minutes in the tournament, it seems that Fernando Santos’ side may be finding their feet at the right time.
In the other game France conquered world champions Germany to continue their march to the Stade de France. Antoine Griezmann has replicated his Atletico Madrid form for Les Bleus much to Didier Deschamps delight.
Both games offered interesting tidbits in regards to how the final will pan out, so Jason Cundy broke down the games for us as well as previewed the final:
Wales and Portugal was an even game and you would assume that going into half time, both managers would have been happy as neither were really overawed by the other. But as the match wore on Wales’ weakness became more apparent; they missed Ramsey and his assists and runs from deep that stretched the backline. Hak Robson-Kanu who lit up the competition with his spectacular goal against Belgium looked isolated and Gareth Bale was again quiet.
The Real Madrid man hasn’t had a great tournament and whilst a proven match winner, he didn’t do it in France.
In contrast his Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up as we have seen him do so many times before, and delivered when his country needed him most.
And this was the difference between the two teams, one side’s star player showed up scoring a goal and assisting another in 4 minutes whilst the other’s didn’t.
Wales will be disappointed with their performance and you can imagine there will be some what if’s given that this isn’t a great Portugal side. Wales were tepid in Ramsey’s absence (Ben Davis was also a huge miss), they could have been more cavalier but instead they were reserved. They will feel like it was an opportunity missed.
Then in Marseille we saw another star player rise to the occasion. Prior to the tournament’s start I picked Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann to star for France and both have impressed.
Griezmann is one of those players that can turn nothing into something. 4 shots on target and that resulted in 2 goals. He’s deadly, especially having moved from wide left to a more central position working in tandem with Olivier Giroud.
At the other end of the pitch Germany missed Mario Gomez. I’m not a massive fan of his, but he gives their attack a focal point and provides a physical presence that the likes of Muller and Gotze can’t. In the end he was missed more than Mats Hummels which is somewhat of a surprise.
Germany reminded me of Spain in that they had plenty of possession, but didn’t do a lot with it. Lloris didn’t have to work hard. Gomez was missed more than Hummels which is a shock
I don’t have a clue what Bastian Schweinsteiger was doing for the penalty, and even more confused at those that said it was harsh. For a man that has played 38 games in the Euros and at the World Cup it’s a terrible error on his part and he should know better.
Germany will look at the game and feel they didn’t do enough and France in the end won it quite comfortably, and will fancy their chances against Ronaldo’s Portugal.
For me France will likely go on and win it, but it is always hard to bet against a side with Ronaldo in it. If he does turn up and produce like we know he can, then maybe they can spring the upset but all over the pitch France are better equipped.
France are unbeaten in their last 17 major tournament games played on home soil, with their last defeat coming at the hands of Czechoslovakia in the inaugural European Championships in 1960. They make that home advantage count, and should have too much for Portugal unless Ronaldo puts in a performance of the tournament.
He will of course have back up, Nani has been decent all tournament scoring 3 goals in his six games whilst prodigy Renato Sanches looks the part and it is easy to see why United wanted him and Bayern spent the money they did to snatch him from their clutches. He has the lot; technique, he is strong and with Nani and Ronaldo and potentially Pepe to return in defence they have a chance.