Hosts France will certainly be the favorite to hoist this year’s EURO 2016 title on home soil, however, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. have the opportunity to do something historic for Portugal.
[ MORE: Previewing the EURO 2016 final ]
Coming off impressive wins against Germany and Wales, Les Bleus and the Portuguese seek fairytale endings to what has been a tournament that has provided every bit of excitement and quality.
Let’s take a closer look at three individual matchups that could decide France-Portugal.
Antoine Griezmann vs. Rui Patricio/Portugal backline
Six goals in as many games has quickly made Griezmann a legend among French circles for his brilliance at EURO 2016. Arguably the most active player for any team this summer, the Atletico Madrid striker needs just one more strong performance in order to hand France its first major title since 2000.
Portugal’s task defensively will be far from easy, especially with the supporting cast that Griezmann and France have at their disposal. With Pepe reportedly nearing a return for the Portuguese ahead of Sunday’s final, the team would receive a massive lift if the Real Madrid centerback can play. Nonetheless, it will be up to goalkeeper Rui Patricio and the rest of the backline to stifle Griezmann and hope Portugal’s attack takes care of business on the opposite end.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Bacary Sagna
Being able to rely on one of the best players in the world is a luxury most teams aren’t afforded. Luckily for Portugal, they have Cristiano Ronaldo to fall back on when the rest of the team’s attack isn’t clicking.
Over the years, we’ve seen both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi criticized for disappearing in the biggest matches on the international stage, but now, the former has the chance to give Portugal a title that has eluded them throughout the nation’s history.
While Bacary Sagna is no strange to big competition, consistently facing the top wingers and attackers in the Premier League, Ronaldo’s mix of pace and skill will be a test for the ages as the 33-year-old looks to shut down the Portuguese legend.
Didier Deschamps vs. Fernando Santos
Managers make the big money in the matches that count the most, and Sunday’s clash is about as big as it gets for both Deschamps and Santos.
France may have the deeper squad, boasting names like N'Golo Kante, Yohan Cabaye and Anthony Martial off the bench, however, Portugal will likely need to utilize its bench in order to come out on top.
Santos has several options such as Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho that can provide a spark, but it’s up to the coach to decide the best moments to infuse a different look into the match.Follow @MattReedFutbol