Just a few hours before Sunday’s UEFA EURO 2016 final in Paris, we bring you the most comprehensive player vs player comparison between the finalists.
— FootTheBall (@FootTheBall) July 10, 2016
Hosts France go into the European Championship finals with an impeccable record against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal at the Stade de France having won the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
Aiming to become European champions at the Stade de France – a ground that 240 days earlier was targeted by terrorists during a night of attacks across Paris, when 130 died in a city – Didier Deschamps’ side believe that Euro 2016 has transcended football and united France during a difficult period.
But how will that confidence translate on the pitch against a resurgent Portuguese side whose captain Ronaldo carries the entire expectations of an under-achieving nation when it comes to football.
Here we set the stage for you :
RUI PATRICIO VS HUGO LLORIS
Has always been a bit on the edge when it comes to defending set-pieces and corners. Hungary managed to pump three into his goal but Patricio is a weak link that Portugal needs cover for from their defenders.
The French captain is in sterling form in EURO 2016, where he has conceded just four goals. His semi-final performance has been nothing short of brilliant, after preventing Germany to breach his citadel many a times.
RONALDO VS LAURENT KOSCIELNY
Destined to make history, Ronaldo’s on and off performance in this tournament has been a frustration for his fans. But his performance in key matches – particularly against Hungary in the group stage, has provided much joy. But will the light the stage up in the grand finale? Beware of his insatiable appetite for goals, immense physical strength, lightning speed and a fierce shot with both feet. The Portuguese captain will surely keep the French defence on the tenterhooks.
The Arsenal man is rated as the best defender of the tournament so far. A natural leader, he has managed to live without the injured compatriot Raphal Varane from Real Madrid. He always poses a threat from set-pieces at the opposition’s goal.
JOSÉ FONTE VS ANTOINE GRIEZMANN
Southampton captain José Fonte made his first appearance for his country just over a year and a half ago, at 31. Fonte began his career on the books of Sporting Lisbon, coming through the ranks alongside Cristiano Ronaldo while playing for the club’s reserve side in the third division. The dominant 6’2″ central defender had played more than 75 times for the Saints, but despite a brilliant season was languishing on the Portuguese bench til recently. But his rise has been nothing short of a fairy tale. His teammates often speak privately about the fact he doesn’t let up for a second, even during training. He is relentless and he will give his 200 per cent to have his hands on Europe’s biggest glory.
He is undoubtedly French football’s newest golden child. He leads the race for the golden boot in this competition. This attacking midfielder, who can play in a false 9 role, he’s rapid and has good positioning, which makes him perfect for counter attacks. Griezmann almost single handily destroyed Germany in the semi finals, he is a man for all seasons – a quick, clever runner on the flanks who had the ability to cut to the line and cross the ball into the box or to get round the defender. Scored a ton of goals for a more defensive minded Atletico Madrid team, he helped spearhead their La Liga and Champions League bids. “More than just the goals, which are important for him and the team, I like when he tracks back, works and when he wins the ball back to be able to attack from better positions,” says Atletico coach Diego Simeone while profusely praising the Frenchman.
PEPE VS OLIVIER GIROUD
Pepe is fully fit and ready for the biggest match of his career. A defender known for his theatrics and hard-knuckled approach to the game, widely criticised for his conduct on the field during his career, is one who galvanises the Portuguese team. But his medals cabinet suggest that he is a proven big match player : Two Champions Leagues winners’ medal, two La Liga titles with Real Madrid and two Portuguese league crowns while playing for Porto.
Three goals in this tournament, yet his critics are sure that the lanky striker is more about misses than hits. Giroud played an important part in Arsenal’s 2014/15 campaign, scoring 19 goals from just 26 starts in all competitions but the 6ft 4in forward, who trades his skill for Arsenal, still doesn’t evince much faith from the naysayers. But he is an imposing presence with his headers.
RENATO SANCHES VS PAUL POGBA
He’s everywhere on the pitch. The 18-year-old, a box-to-box midfielder, is one of the most expensive teenagers in Europe, who was bought by Bayern Munich from Benfica for a whopping fee of €35m, which could rise to €80m. He can be the biggest thorn in French dreams of winning EURO 2016 on home soil.
The man is a machine. A skill-full machine for whom Manchester United is willing to break the bank and transfer records. Paul Pogba — who sits just in front of a four-man defence — has been given more freedom to operate up front by his coach Didier Deschamps. At 23, Paul Pogba has Europe at his talented feet. His skill levels are awe-inspiring. In training games on small-sized pitches, his range of passing, ability to spot space and array of tricks draw gasps.
ANDRÉ GOMES VS DIMITRI PAYET
André Gomes is the driving force behind the new Valencia. With an unmatched tactical awareness, tempo and creativity, he has lit up EURO 2016 with dazzling tricks and turns, making him one of the most coveted players in the ongoing summer transfer market.
He does things on the pitch that are lifting you out of your seat. He is the new Zinedine Zidane, he is as gold as Michele Platini. With his laid back brilliance and dribbling skills which lit up the English Premier League last season, Portugal should dread his skills from free kicks. Payet, critics feel, may have peaked a little too early in this completion, but his wizardry will make any rival team nervous. He is THE JEWEL set into the heart of the Les Blues.
JOÃO MOUTINHO VS MOUSSA SISSOKO
The pint-sized midfielder was Monaco’s first marquee signings, despite being linked to Tottenham in 2013. His form has been below par throughout this tournament, but Moutinho is due to show his class and what better stage than the finals of EURO 2016. Moutinho’s greatest asset, the ability to deliver a slippery pass at just the right moment for a pacey attacker can catch the French defence off-guard.
The Newcastle man, who quickly became a key figure in the famous black and white striped shirt, is now showing his power and class in the late stages of the tournament. Drafted into the team after N’Golo Kanté’s suspension, he has transformed from a defensive midfielder into a box-to-box powerhouse in the Yaya Toure mould. He’s a real force of football. Dread him.
WILLIAM CARVALHO VS BLAISE MATUIDI
Arsenal wants him, Tottenham wants him. So does the rest of Europe. Born in Luanda, Angola, William Carvalho has been earmarked as Portugal’s next big thing for the last 3 years. His grandfather, Praia, and his uncle, Afonso, played for Progresso de Sambizanga. With a tremendous physique (now 1.87m in height, and 86kgs) and remarkable quality of ball control, Carvalho is the man who carries the Portuguese team on his broad shoulders and acts like a vacuum cleaner, breaking up the opposition’s game anywhere on the pitch.
With an awkward passing style, he is a midfield engine. His tireless performances has mostly gone unnoticed, but Matuidi emulates legendary French midfield generals like Didier Deschamps and Claude Makelele.
JOAO MARIO VS BACARY SAGNA
A graduate from the famous Sporting academy, João Mário is a versatile midfielder and can play in several positions; though his favourite is a central midfield role, he can play on the right or left wing, or even a number ten. The 23-year-old has been labelled as “the best Portuguese player in the Portuguese League” by super-agent Jorge Mendes, and has been linked with Manchester United and a couple of other premier league clubs. In EURO 2016, he has been usually deployed out wide. Watch out for his killer through passes.
Experienced, athletic, powerful… just three words that can be used to describe Bacary Sagna. The Manchester City right back is always a joy to watch. While flying up along the wing, he sometimes, at 33, takes a little time to fall back. But consistency is a key with the former Gunner.
NANI VS PATRICE EVRA
What a surprise package he has been this tournament. Emerging as Portugal’s main striker, the ever ephemeral winger has finally lived up to his talent. And his performance has been so good that the once forgotten Manchester United man, languishing in the Turkish league, has been snapped up by Valencia in the middle of EURO 2016. Abandoned by his parents, Nani – real name Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha – was raised by a loving aunt in a crumbling one-bedroom home in a crime-ridden district of Lisbon and in France, he leads the Portuguese goal tally with three goals alongside Cristiano .
The oldest member of the Les Blues at 35, Evra is an experienced campaigner whose runs down the flank and pinpointed crosses will trouble the Portuguese defence. His glorious career in some of the biggest clubs will provides an unmatched solidity to the French defence. The Senegalese-born left back will carry forward his understanding of the big stage after being a part of the French squad at UEFA EURO 2008 and UEFA EURO 2012 and a much forgettable 2010 FIFA World Cup.
ADRIEN SILVA VS SAMUEL UMTITI
Silva has Spent his entire professional career at Sporting Lisbon and is expected to be chosen ahead of Joao Moutinho against the country of his birth, France. Born in Angoulême, France, he began playing football with French club Bordeaux. At the age of 11, his parents moved to the Minho region of Portugal. Known for his passing and dribbling skills, Silva prefers to play as a ‘number 10’ and despite making just 14 appearances for his country, he is now considered as the go to man stabilising the midfield for the Selecção.
Samuel Umtiti replaced Barcelona’s Jérémy Mathieu in the 23-man France squad to take part in Euro 2016 just fortnight before competition. After a stellar season in the Lyon shirt, the French club Lyon announced that they have agreed to sell the defender to Barcelona for €25m, a move to be made official on 15 July, 2016. Replacing the suspended Adil Rami, Umtiti has made a solid impression in the Les Blues defence with plenty of pace and sound aerial ability.
DANILO VS N’GOLO KANTÉ
He has been in the Arsenal watchlist, among other scouts, since last year. Only 24, his career has taken him to Italy, Greece and Holland but, this Guinea-born Portuguese midfielder has been a revelation for many football watchers with his power-packed performances at EURO 2016.
When Leicester City Football Club signed N’Golo Kanté from French Ligue 1 side Caen on a four-year deal in 2015, not many had heard his name. When N’Golo was 13, he was voted the best player at some tournament, and was given a trophy which was almost as tall as him. He had trouble carrying it. Today, the Frenchman is being touted as the new Claude Makelele or Jean Tigana, with his tireless performances in the English Premier League. He has been linked to some of the best clubs in the world, including Arsenal, Real Madrid and Paris Saint German. Kante made the most interceptions in the whole of Europe last season – 5.3 per game on average.