Apart from the Portuguese and a few pockets of fans who naturally drift towards the underdogs, most football fans are looking forward to a French win in the final of the 2016 European Championships. And for a nation that has never lost a tournament when hosting, Sunday’s final may well be a coronation.
They have the momentum: The French have gotten better as the tournament progressed. Les Bleus were not convincing at the Group stages despite two wins and a draw, but grew into the tournament at the knock out stage, the assured performance and convincing win over Germany cemented their title credentials.
Their strike force keeps reinventing itself: Didier Deschamps probably has nothing to do with it, but the imperious goal scoring form of Antoine Griezmann, the Jekyl and Hyde play of Olivier Giroud and the flashy brilliance of Dimitri Payet means that opponents can only guess from whence the French lightning will strike. Payet was the go-to man at the Group stage, with Griezman making ‘cameo’ appearances, Giroud turned it up in the earlier knock out rounds. Now Griezmann is the arrow head.
Their midfield is a juggernaut: Let’s face it, the French seem to have the perfect combo of brute and guile in the middle – in Matuidi and Pogba, they have arguably the best enforcers in Europe protecting the back four, and added to that, both can create. Payet and Sissoko are a handful for defences. And they still have Ngolo Kante, Yohan Cabaye and Kingsley Coman in waiting. An embarrassment of riches.
Hugo Lloris is inching towards being one of Europe’s best. The Tottenham Hotspurs man has always been a decent goaltender, but his performance in this tournament especially in the last two matches, have been awesome. If Lloris showed up against Portugal like he did against Germany…
The French fans. French fans have been the 12th man for their side. Against an excited Icelandic crowd and the neutrals rooting for the underdogs, the home side refused to be intimidated. The team feeds off their energy when under pressure, and this may be key in the Final.
France have 18 wins over Portugal in 24 meetings dating back to 1926, but history means nothing, as the class of 2016 wait to add their own story.