France and Portugal will both look to their stars for inspiration in the final

Can France complete a hat-trick of final wins on home soil?

BY Adrian Collins 19:40 Sunday 10 July 2016, 19:40 10 Jul 2016

Image: Nick Potts / EMPICS Sport

France have once again made it through to the final of a tournament on their home turf, as Portugal stand between them and glory on Sunday night. 

Follow all the action from Sunday's final LIVE right here

The route to the final for both sides has hit plenty of speed bumps; Portugal struggled to win a match in normal time until the semi-final, when a cagey Wales couldn't find a response to Ronaldo's stunning header, while France looked rattled when Ireland struck early, and required some magic from Payet and Griezmann to get them through their group stage matches.

There could well be a tough game ahead for them against Portugal, who have shown themselves to be incredibly frustrating opponents and very well-organised defensively. Despite the fact that they have a frontline and midfield packed with attacking talent, they look to be relying on the (ahem) nous and experience of Pepe at the back to keep things tight. 

They forced Wales into making passes in the wrong part of the pitch and playing long balls, which more than suited an aging Bruno Carvalho for that game, but with William Carvalho and Pepe set to return, they will need to be even more tactically adept to cope with France's attacking lineup. 

A strong contender for the player of the tournament, Antoine Griezmann has shown the French nation what Atletico Madrid fans already knew; that they have a very special talent on their hands. While Paul Pogba has failed to really ignite the tournament in the way that has been expected, the magic in his boots, along with those of Dimitri Payet, mean Portugal will have a very busy night. 

One of the surprise packages of the semi-final was Adrien Silva, whose work rate ensured that Gareth Bale never had a moment to himself and was unable to influence the game in the way manager Chris Coleman would have wanted. While Bale himself played well below par, that industry and energy will be something that Portugal hope can spoil the host's party this evening, in the same way that Greece did to them a decade ago.

France have the history books on their side, however. Not only have they won their last 10 games against Portugal (their best current run against any team after their 13 consecutive wins against Luxembourg) but they have also won every final of a major tournament in which they have played. Portugal, on the other hand, have played the most games in the history of the European Championships without ever winning the tournament (34).

The buildup to the game has focused heavily on the two star performers, Ronaldo and Griezmann, as they look to be the most likely players to have an impact. The Portuguese star has grown into the tournament as it has gone on, and while he will always face criticism no matter what he does, it's hard to argue that his three goals and three assists have not been pivotal to the success of Fernando Santos' side so far. 

Equally, Griezmann, after being dropped for the Albania game, has since been invaluable to France. His pace and positioning proved the downfall of Ireland and Germany, appearing where defenders didn't expect him to in order to steal in and glance home a header, or burst through the defensive line with his pace. 

However, there should also be some attention given to two other players who might have a big role to play in this evening's proceedings: Payet and Nani. 

Both players have three goals to their name so far in this tournament, while Payet's 15 successful dribbles so far show that he has more to his game than spectacular if you need more than that. 

Both have created goals with a couple of assists between them, and they have seen plenty of shots too; Payet has taken 19 while Nani has racked up 21. All those numbers mean that, should either side concentrate too much on just one man, they leave themselves open to being caught by the other actors who will want to have a say in tonight's drama. 

With a huge Portuguese population in Paris, the split of supporters in the crowd may well be closer than it has been in recent games for the home side, but with tension and nerves likely to have an effect too, there may well be a long night in store as both teams hope to avoid making any mistakes and frustrate their opposition. 


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