And so to the Final of Euro 2016. While one of the participants in Sunday’s showpiece were strongly tipped pre-tournament to make it this far, the other certainly was not.
Portugal v. France – Sunday 10th July
France may have fulfilled their initial expectations and “duty” as Griezmann described it after the win over Germany by reaching the final, but now they have a real chance to repeat the home glories of 1984 and 1998.
Up against them is a Portugal team who have got this far by hook or by crook, against pretty much all expectation. They scraped through their relatively easy group in only third place, behind Hungary and Iceland, having drawn all three games. Then they won in extra-time against highly fancied Croatia before beating Poland on penalties, and then came the win over Wales.
The semi-final saw Portugal record their first win in 90 minutes in the tournament, and was arguably their most impressive display. The swift one-two double whammy inflicted by Ronaldo and Nani was too much for Wales. The feeling is that Ronaldo, from a weary, and probably injury affected start, is growing as the tournament has gone on, and is having a greater effect on his team and its fortunes. His header against Wales was imperious, and is precisely the kind of situation where France are anticipated to be weak.
Laurent Koscielny will need to deal better with this aerial threat if France are to keep Ronaldo at bay. His defensive partner Samuel Umtiti had an awkward debut against Iceland, but a significantly better showing against Germany. He will need to be on his game again.
But it is up front where France are the most impressive side of the tournament. In Antoine Griezmann they have the star of the show, and golden boot winner elect, who could well be the match winner. His influence has grown through the tournament from a stodgy beginning, and he is now rightly heralded as his nation’s best hope. That label had been initially applied to Paul Pogba, but in an excellent display against Germany, he too showed that his influence on proceedings is growing.
Neither team has had particularly perilous route to the final. Both have only had to overcome one high class team to make it this far – a debate for another day perhaps in terms of the tournament expansion, but it is a bit of an indictment that this is the case. It’s not quite the clash of two great powers that many may have hoped for, but should be an intriguing one nonetheless. It is likely to be a case of France attacking and Portugal seeking to play on the break, but they carry enough of a threat to keep things interesting.
My Prediction: Portugal 1-2 France
WGF Prediction: France by 1 goal
From a beer point of view, the semi-finals both went the wrong way for me. So instead of a tasty clash between a Double Dragon ale and a cloudy Erdinger wheat beer, instead I’m faced with Sagres and Kronenbourg – something of a 0-0 draw. It’s a disappointment, but beer is beer and I’ll just have to endure. I may have predicted France to win the football, but Sagres will likely edge the beer contest, so I’m sure that will cheer the Portuguese up should things go wrong on the pitch…