Euro 2016 Final Fantasy Preview: Portugal v France
Portugal take on France in the Euro 2016 final on Sunday, with the hosts having been made strong favourites to lift the trophy in front of their own fans at the Stade de France in Paris.
Cristiano Ronaldo may have something to say about France’s chances, however, having been back to his best in Portugal’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Wales in Lyon.
France, meanwhile, continue to rely heavily on Antoine Griezmann for their goals, with the Atlético Madrid man having hit six strikes at the finals so far.
Griezmann’s 2016 haul is more goals than any player has scored in a single European Championship since Michel Platini at the 1984 Euros, the now-disgraced football administrator hitting nine goals, including back-to-back hat-tricks, as his team won the tournament on home soil.
In fact, only three players have scored more European Championship goals than Griezmann – Platini, Alan Shearer and Ronaldo – so it is clear who the talisman are for their teams for the final.
However, aside from the obvious merits of the teams’ star players Griezmann and Ronaldo, what else do Euro 2016 fantasy football players need to know ahead of Sunday’s showpiece?
Portugal v France: Head-to-head
The head-to-head record strongly favours France, who have beaten Portugal in the last 10 meetings between the two nations, while Portugal have never been able to win against France in the finals of a major international tournament either.
These countries memorably played each other in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup, with Zinedine Zidane scoring the only goal of the game to send his team through to the final, although the tournament would end in disgrace for the star after he was sent off for head-butting Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the chest, the Azzurri going on to win the final on penalties.
Zidane was also the key man for France when they played Portugal at Euro 2000, with that meeting also coming in the semi-finals of the tournament. Portugal led on that occasion, but Thierry Henry equalised, then Zidane hit the winning goal of the tie during extra-time.
Portugal will be very glad Zidane is no longer playing, but Ronaldo will be one of the few players involved in Sunday’s final who featured in that 2006 World Cup game. The Real Madrid star will have revenge on his mind, especially as he will also recall the 2004 final of the European Championship, in which his Portugal side suffered a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of Greece.
Ronaldo missed a late chance in that game and was memorably pictured in tears at full-time.
Portugal fantasy players to watch
Ronaldo will be a budget-busting fantasy selection for many, but he is the man who can make the difference for Portugal against France. A return of three goals and three assists is decent, but the suspicion is there is more to come from the 31-year-old.
Strike partner Nani, who has three goals and a solitary assist at the finals, is a more affordable attacking option from the Portugal team, while Ricardo Quaresma is also worth considering as he has made a regular impact from the substitutes bench at Euro 2016.
Defensively, much depends on the fitness of Pepe, who missed the semi-final and is racing to be back for the final, with Bruno Alves likely to partner Southampton defender José Fonte if Pepe is unfit. Pepe’s WhoScored rating of 7.35 is very close to Ronaldo’s 7.37. Another Southampton defender, Cédric Soares, has had a solid finals so far, lining up at right-back for the Seleção.
Portugal’s star midfielder has been Renato Sanches, despite headlines about his supposed age distracting from his excellent performances at Euro 2016, while the more defensively-minded William Carvalho is likely to return for the final after missing the semi-final due to a suspension.
France fantasy players to watch
Griezmann has been the star of the tournament so far and he is virtually certain to win the golden boot, racking up six goals and two assists for his team. While he will be expensive in Euro 2016 daily fantasy football teams, he is likely to be worth every penny – the 25-year-old has scored five goals in his last three appearances at the finals.
Support for Griezmann comes from Olivier Giroud and Dimitri Payet, who have each recorded three goals and two assists at the finals. In fact, aside from France’s front three of Payet, Giroud and Griezmann, Paul Pogba is the only player in the team to have scored at Euro 2016, even though France have hit the net at least twice in five of their six matches at the tournament.
Hugo Lloris was superb in the semi-final victory over world champions Germany, keeping his third clean sheet of the tournament, which perhaps makes him a better option in goal for fantasy football teams compared to the Portugal stopper Rui Patrício.