Euros 2016 hosts, France face-off with Portugal in the final match of the tournament tonight, and it has been a competition of surprises, disappointments, beautiful goals, beautiful football and the opposite thus far. If there is something to watch out for in the game between the 2 sides, they are these battles:
Ronaldo vs Griezmann for Ballon D’or
Just over 6 weeks ago, the Madrid clubs met in the finals of the Champions League, and the 2 players were the subjects of pre-match analysis. Ronaldo came out tops after converting his side’s penalty kick during the shoot out, Griezmann had earlier on in the match failed to convert from the spot in order to help his side restore parity with Madrid leading. Tonight presents him an opportunity to right the wrongs and put himself in a comfortable spot for the Ballon D’or prize in January. So far in the competition, the Atletico Madrid star has performed excellently well, scoring 6 goals which puts him in prime position for the Golden Boot and also carrying his country this far. Except for the semifinals and against Hungary, Ronaldo hasn’t been in fine form in France. But that won’t matter if he leads his side to glory tonight. His regular threat for the award, Messi has failed with Argentina at the Copa America and if Griezmann follows suit with France, a 4th prize awaits Cristiano Ronaldo at the FIFA event next year. It’s not just a Portugal versus France battle, it’s a Ballon D’or battle.
Hosts vs Former Hosts
Portugal hosted the competition in 2004 while a 19-year-old Ronaldo was still beginning make his emergence on the scene. They however lost to Greece with a lone goal in the final of the tournament. The disappointment is still fresh on their minds, and the whole nation will be hoping to make up for that loss with a victory against the current host. France have been brilliant in recent games and no doubt deserve to win the tournament as one of the earlier favorites. They’ve won the last World Cup and Euros they hosted in 1998 and 2000, and winning this one will further strengthen their claims as football giants.
Luck vs Work
Portugal have gotten thus far riding on pure luck. First, the new format of having 24 teams in the group stage and 16 in the next rounds worked in their favour as they finished their group, the easiest in 3rd place and as one of the best losers across the groups. Defeating a great Croatian side with their only shot on target barely a minute after Perisic hit the bar followed. Poland could have won the penalty shoot out in via quarters, while the absence of Ramsey in Welsh team made them less formidable in the semis. France have worked their way to the final despite a slow and shaky start. Wins against Northern Ireland, Iceland and Germany have been emphatic and deserving, and they definitely deserve to win it after their earlier displays. But that doesn’t matter in football, and as we’ve seen in the game and in France, the best side doesn’t always win.