Messi y Ronaldo se juegan el Mundial

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Por increíble que parezca, los dos futbolistas que llevan casi una década turnándose el Balón de Oro, podrían quedarse sin el Mundial de Rusia. Argentina y Portugal aún no tienen el pase sellado y hoy se disputa la última jornada. ¿Cuáles son sus opciones?

La Portugal de Ronaldo
Lo bueno es que se juega el pase en su casa, lo malo es que lo hace ante Suiza, el líder del grupo y un rival duro que también quiere un billete para Rusia. Portugal depende de sí misma, pero solo le vale ganar y remontar el golaverage del 2-0. Ronaldo salvó a su selección de un fracaso inesperado ante Andorra, ahora tiene que centrarse en un partido vital para las aspiraciones de la vigente campeona de Europa. Continue reading

Andre Silva shines as Portugal secure comprehensive victory

Euro 2016

For a second successive 2018 World Cup qualifier, Portugal won 6-0, as Andre Silva scored a first half hat – trick to inspire his team to a comprehensive victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn.

In an entirely dominant display the Euro 2016 winners amassed 23 shots, 11 of which were on target, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 66th international goal before Joao Moutinho and Cavaco Cancelo enhanced Selecao’s margin of victory.

Prior to beating the Faroe Islands 6-0, in their previous qualifier Portugal overcame Andorra by the same score line courtesy of four goals from Ronaldo, whilst Cavaco Cancelo and Silva also scored.

Victories for Hungarians and Swiss

In the process of recording successive 6-0 victories, Portugal climbed to second place in group B, three points behind Switzerland, who beat Andorra 2-1.

After Fabian Schar and Ahmed Mehmedi gave Switzerland a 2-0 lead Martinez Palau set-up an interesting finale as the 18-year-old scored in the last minute for Andorra, who produced a vastly improved performance from the one which they delivered against Portugal.

One of Fernando Santos’ side’s Euro 2016 group stage opponents also occupies their 2018 World Cup qualification group.  Hungary, with whom Portugal drew 3-3 at Euro 2016, beat Latvia 2-0 away from home with Adam Gyurcso and Adam Szalai scoring for Bernd Storck’s team.

Benteke scores hat-trick in comprehensive Belgian win

Just as Portugal secured a 6-0 away victory so too did Belgium, with Christian Benteke scoring a hat-trick against Gibraltar.  The Crystal Palace striker influentially helped his country to a second successive comprehensive win, following a 4-0 home victory over Bosnia Herzegovina, who recovered from that loss by beating Cyprus 2-0 courtesy of a brace by Edin Dzeko.

With the game goalless entering the final two minutes, the Manchester City striker scored twice.

One of the 30-year-old striker’s Roma teammates Kostas Manolas also enjoyed a successful international appearance whereby the central defender helped Greece to a 2-0 victory over Estonia, as Michael Skibbe’s maintained a 100% record to sit atop of group H alongside Belgium.

In the process of winning their first three qualification games, Roberto Martinez’s team have scored 13 goals without conceding, to make an extremely positive start to their bid to reach Russia in 2018.

Sweden on form in Group A

Another team to do that is Sweden, who won a second successive qualifier, since after a 1-0 away victory over Luxembourg, they then beat Bulgaria 3-0 in Stockholm.  Whilst Ola Toivonen gave Janne Andersson’s team the lead, Oscar Hiljemark and the Benfica defender Victor Lindelof scored to ensure Sweden are now level on both points and goal difference at the top of group A.

France’s fine form continues

Whilst Sweden won comfortably, France was forced to work considerably harder for their victory, as Les Bleus defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam.

After half-an-hour, Paul Pogba scored the winning goal with a fine long range effort.  The Manchester United’s midfielder along with each of his French compatriots delivered an accomplished display, as Didier Deschamps’ side continued to recover from the disappointment of losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal.  Specifically their win over the Netherlands followed an emphatic 4-1 win over Bulgaria, who occupy fourth place in group A, ahead of Belarus and Luxembourg who drew 1-1.

Series of action packed qualifiers

Ultimately another series of entirely entertaining qualification games unfolded, which was particularly notable for the superb hat-tricks scored by Portugal’s Andre Silva and Christian Benteke, whose first goal in just 8.1 seconds was the fastest ever scored in a World Cup qualifying campaign.

Whilst Belgium and Portugal greatly enhanced their prospects of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, so too did the quartet France, Sweden, Switzerland and Greece as the race to reach Russia intensifies with each passing qualifier.

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2018 World Cup Qualifying begins badly for Euro 2016 finalists

 

Euro 2016

The first round of the European section of 2018 World Cup Qualification fixtures are now complete, as the 54 competing nations launched their respective campaigns to try to reach the finals in Russia.

Whilst there were several noteworthy results, two were particularly surprising and they involved the Euro 2016 finalists, France and Portugal.

Both countries toiled in their first competitive games since playing one another in the Stade de France on 10 July, when the Portuguese triumphed 1-0.

Portugal’s poor start

In order to do so, Fernando Santos’ side produced a wonderfully assured and confident performance, which they were unable to replicate as they opened their 2018 World Cup Qualification campaign with a 2-0 away defeat to Switzerland.

In the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Real Madrid forward missing the game through injury, Portugal conceded two first half goals, as Breel Embolo and Ahmed Mehmedi scored for the Swiss, for whom Granit Xhaka was sent off in injury time.

That represents the fourth red card that the Arsenal holding midfielder has received since the start of last season, as despite performing well he continues to suffer from disciplinary issues.

Nevertheless regardless of Xhaka’s dismissal Switzerland comfortably consigned Fernando Santos to his first competitive defeat in 15 matches as manager of Portugal, who created plenty of chances but were unable to convert any of them.

Faltering French open campaign with a draw

The frustration associated with that issue was one also experienced by Portugal’s Euro 2016 final opponents France.

Specifically despite dominating their first 2018 World Cup Qualification campaign game against Belarus, Les Bleus did not play with the fluency and attacking verve that they consistently displayed throughout Euro 2016, as Aleksandr Khatskevich’s side performed valiantly to secure a creditable point.

Instrumental in earning that was the Belarussian goalkeeper, Andrey Gurbonov, who on numerous occasions denied Antoine Greizmann.  The Atletico Madrid forward, along with Olivier Giroud, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane, each went close to scoring for Didier Deschamps team, whose best efforts to win the game ended in vain.

Much changed French squad

Of the French team to start against Belarus, there were only five surviving members of the side which began, the Euro 2016 Final against Portugal with the quintet being Giroud, Greizmann, Laurent Koscielny, Pogba and Moussa Sissoko.

Furthermore relative to the squad that Deschamps’ selected for Euro 2016 that which he took to Belarus assumed a markedly contrasting look since it contained eight different players.

Whilst Yohan Cabaye, Kingsley Coman, Patrice Evra, Christophe Jallet, Hugo Lloris, Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna and Morgan Schneiderlin all featured for France at Euro 2016, they were not called upon by Deschamps for France’s trip to Borisov, whilst their replacements were Geoffrey Kondogbia, Kevin Gameiro, Layvin Kurzawa, Sebastien Corchia, Alphonse Areola, Raphael Varane, Djibril Sidibe and Ousmane Dembele, respectively.

Improvement to be sought by Euro 2016 finalists in upcoming qualifiers

Given the number of alterations Deschamps has made to his squad, the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign could potentially be a transitional one for France, who similar to Portugal will aspire to avenge their disappointing start by producing improved performances in their upcoming qualifiers against Bulgaria and the Netherlands, which are set to take place next month.

The first of those games takes place at the Stade de France on 7 October, whilst three days later Les Bleus will face Danny Blind’s Dutch side in Amsterdam.  Similar to France, Oranje opened their qualification campaign with a draw, as their game with Sweden ended 1-1, whilst Bulgaria won a thrilling encounter against Luxembourg 4-3.

On that basis, France’s qualification group is set to be characterized by great competitiveness.  So too is Portugal’s, since the Faroe Islands held Hungary to a goalless draw, whilst Latvia only narrowly defeated Andorra 1-0.

Therefore in order to reach the 2018 World Cup finals, both France and Portugal will require to recover from indifferent starts to their qualification campaigns and assert their authority and quality in extremely challenging group.

History proves a veteran striker is needed to win World Cup or European Championships

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It’s been twelve years since that dramatic day at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, when Portugal’s dream of winning the European Championship on home soil were crushed by a surprising Greek team. Greece won the 2004 final 1-0 with a goal by Angelos Charisteas, making a young Cristiano Ronaldo cry like a child.

Experience needed

However, Portugal got their redemption, as they are finally the kings of European football. The Selecao beat hosts France in the Euro 2016 final by the same score as the one in 2004: 1-0. A goal in extra time by Eder did the job for Ronaldo and his teammates, handing France the same fate: losing a European Championships final on home soil.

Maybe it had something to do with experience. Or maybe not. That 2004 Portugal team had very experienced star players, like Luis Figo and Deco. And they played 29-year-old Pauleta in attack, just like Les Bleus played 29-year-old Olivier Giroud next to Antoine Griezmann (25).

It’s an historical fact that teams who reached the final of the Euros or a World Cup this century have had at least one striker above the age of 27 starting the game. The only exception to this rule was Spain, who started a 24-year-old Fernando Torres during the Euro 2008 final against Germany.

Belgium’s problem

This seems to be a big issue for a nation like Belgium. The Red Devils, with new coach Roberto Martinez, have four strikers in their current squad: Christian Benteke (25), Romelu Lukaku (23), Michy Batshuayi (22), and Divock Origi (21). Belgium were one of the favourites to win Euro 2016 but were eliminated by Wales in the quarter-finals, suffering the same fate during the 2014 World Cup against Argentina.

Beneteke will be 27 when the 2018 World Cup arrives, meaning it would be wise for Martinez to play the Crystal Palace striker. However, the Spanish manager seems to rely on a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lukaku (then 25) as his first option.

If history repeats itself, Belgium won’t make it to the final. Unless, they play as great as the 2008 Spain team… Yeah, right.

The numbers:

European Championships 2000

France: Christophe Dugarry (28)

Italy: Marco Delvecchio (27) – Francesco Totti (23)

World Cup 2002

Brazil: Rivaldo (30) – Ronaldo (25)

Germany: Oliver Neuville (29) – Miroslav Klose (24)

European Championships 2004

Greece: Zisis Vryzas (30) – Stelios Giannakopoulos (30) – Angelos Charisteas (24)

Portugal: Pauleta (29)

World Cup 2006

Italy: Francesco Toni (29) – Luca Totti (29)

France: Thierry Henry (29)

European Championships 2008

Spain: Fernando Torres (24)

Germany: Miroslav Klose (30)

World Cup 2010

Spain: David Villa (28)

Holland: Robin Van Persie (27)

European Championships 2012

Spain: Andres Iniesta (28) – David Silva (26)

Italy: Antonio Cassano (30) – Mario Balotelli (22)

World Cup 2014

Germany: Miroslav Klose (36)

Argentina: Gonzalo Higuain (26) – Lionel Messi (27)

European Championships 2016

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo (31) – Nani (29)

France: Olivier Giroud (29) – Antoine Griezmann (25)

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Goal shy Eder looks to rediscover goal scoring form for Portugal

Euro 2016

Despite having played the entirety of Lille’s three Ligue 1 games this season, Portugal’s Euro 2016 final match winner Eder has not yet scored, as the 28-year-old striker intensely searches to rediscover his goal scoring touch.

Eder retains place in Portugal squad

The former Swansea City player is set to continue his efforts to do that whilst on international duty, as he has been named in Fernando Santos’ 24-man squad for Portugal’s upcoming friendly with Gibraltar and 2018 World Cup qualifier against Switzerland.

As well as Eder, 19 other members of Portugal’s Euro 2016 players are included in Santos’ current squad, the average of which is 26-and-a-half years old.  Whilst the youngest member of Santos’ party is Renato Sanches at 19-year-old, the eldest is the 34-year-old Bruno Alves.

Furthermore the Cagliari centre back is also the third most capped player in Portugal’s current squad as he has played 86 times for his country, with Joao Moutinho and Nani having made four and seventeen more appearances than Alves respectively.

The Selecao’s record appearance holder and top goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo is one of three players from Portugal’s triumphant Euro 2016 squad set to miss the country’s upcoming games, with the other two being the unattached Ricardo Carvalho and Vieirinha.

Relative to Ronaldo’s omission the Real Madrid forward is still trying to recover from the knee injury which he sustained during the first half of Portugal’s 1-0 Euro 2016 final victory over France, with Eder scoring a superb winning goal, whereby he struck a powerful low 25-yard shot beyond the despairing dive of Hugo Lloris.

Eder’s unsensational goal – scoring record

Although Eder’s fourth goal for Portugal, it was his first in a competitive game, since his other three arrived in friendlies against Italy, Norway and Estonia.  Given that he has made 29 appearances for Portugal, Eder’s international goal – scoring record is extremely modest.

As such Eder’s aim is to improve upon that against both Gibraltar and Switzerland, whilst in order to do so it will be necessary for him to rediscover his goal-scoring touch since that has deserted the Guinea Bassau born player during his club Lille’s first three games of the 2016-2017 season.

After joining the French side on loan from Swansea in January, Eder scored six goals in 14 appearances to help Lille finish fifth in Ligue 1 and qualify for this season’s Europa League, in the group stages of which they will play Wolfsburg, Everton and Krasnodar.

Subsequently following his fine form for Lille, Eder signed a permanent four-year contract with Les Dogues, for whom he has performed well so far this season without as yet scoring a goal.

Many attributes to Eder’s game

As a powerful and tenacious centre forward, who is blessed with great aerial strength and touch, Eder possesses an excellent all round game, despite not being a prolific goal scorer at either club or international level.

Nevertheless the quality of his goal against France, along with the manner in which commanded the attention of Les Bleus centre back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti after appearing as a second-half substitute, provided a clear indication that Eder has the potential to lead Portugal’s frontline, which he may be tasked with doing in the games with Gibraltar and Switzerland, given Ronaldo’s absence from those.

Ultimately although Eder does not score regularly, he valuably contributes to both Lille and Portugal’s performances, as the 6ft 3in striker is adept at holding the ball up and bringing team mates into play.

Therefore in addition to aspiring to continue that in Portugal’s next two matches, Eder will also strive to score a first competitive goal, since his Euro 2016 final match – winning goal against France.

Sporting Lisbon seek to end Benfica and Porto’s monopolisation of the Primeira Liga

Euro 2016

For the past 14 seasons, Portugal’s Primeira Liga has been won by either Benfica and Porto, as the pair have monopolised the country’s top flight throughout that period.

Whilst in the 11 years from 2002-2003 to 2012-2013, Porto were crowned champions of Portugal nine times, the Dragoes dominant spell in the Primeira Liga was interrupted twice by Benfica, who have won the division for the last three successive years.

In two of those three years, runners-up to Aguias were Sporting Lisbon, with the club being the last team other than either Benfica or Porto to win the Primeira Liga. That was back in season 2001-2002, when under the guidance of the Romanian Laszlo Boloni, Sporting won the title for the 18th time by ending the campaign five points ahead of Boavista.

Subsequently Leoes have been unable to secure a 19th league championship title despite being runners-up on six occasions, including last season as they finished just two points adrift of Benfica.

When the two sides met on 5 March in the Derby de Lisboa at Estadio Jose Alvalade, Sporting were one point ahead of their city rivals. However Benfica won the game 1-0 to assume top spot, which they retained by winning each of their remaining nine league games, whilst Sporting also achieved that same feat.

As such throughout the course of last season the two Lisbon clubs engaged in an enthralling battle, with there being the distinct potential for them to do so again this year, as Sporting will launch another endeavour to end Benfica and Porto’s monopolisation of the Primeira Liga.

At present Jorge Jesus’ side seem to be relatively well equipped to achieve that, since not only have Sporting kept their best players – several of whom starred at Euro 2016 for Portugal – but they have also strengthened their squad by supplementing that with several quality new recruits.

In addition to retaining the services of goalkeeper Rui Patricio and the influential midfield trio of William Carvalho, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, who were each key members of Portugal’s Euro 2016 winning team, Jesus has overseen some astute business in the transfer market.

Specifically the 62-year-old manager has been authorised to sign the Argentinean striker Alan Ruiz, along with the defensive midfield duo of Bruno Paulista, who is Brazilian and Radosav Petrovic of Serbia, whilst the Costa Rican winger Joel Campbell has also joined Sporting on a season – long loan deal from Arsenal.

Each of Jesus’ new recruits have the potential to help Sporting build as strong a title challenge as the one which the club mounted last season, as Leoes seek to win the Primeira Liga for the first time in 15 years and bring to an end Benfica and Porto’s recent dominance of the division.

Ultimately although that constitutes an extremely difficult challenge for Sporting, it is nevertheless one which they will embrace, in order to overcome the disappointment of so narrowly missing out on a 19th league title last season.

 

 

English Premier League clubs interested in Portuguese Euro 2016 stars

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Two of Portugal’s Euro 2016 stars have become primary transfer targets for a number of English Premier League clubs.

Sporting duo attracting interest from England

The Sporting Lisbon duo of William Carvalho and Joao Mario were both key members of the Portuguese team which won the European Championships in France, with the pair now understood to be attracting interest from some of the top clubs in England.

Magnificent Joao Mario

As an ever present during Portugal’s successful Euro 2016 campaign, Joao Mario produced a series of excellent performances by consistently displaying his superb technical ability, range of passing and ability to read the game, with the 23-year-old also doing that for Sporting Lisbon throughout last season. During that as well as scoring six goals, Mario provided assists for another 11 to help his club, managed by Jorge Jesus, finish second in the Primeira Liga.

Subsequently following his superb form for both club and country over the past year, Joao Mario is now being linked with a move away from Sporting Lisbon, with the club having rejected a bid in the region of £33.5 for him from Liverpool, as reported by Goal.

Whether Jurgen Klopp’s side will submit an improved offer as yet remains unclear, however Chelsea are believed as being ready to make £46m proposal for Joao Mario, with Goal also suggesting that Manchester United may register an interest in the assured, calm and elegant midfielder should they be unable to agree a deal to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus.

Therefore Joao Mario is a player in high demand, which is understandable given that he has established himself as one of the finest playmakers in European football. In addition to having now earned 18 international caps for Portugal at senior level, Joao Mario also enjoyed a superb under-21 career with Selecao.

Specifically he was an ever present in the Portuguese side which reached the final of last year’s UEFA U-21 Championship, before losing on penalties to Sweden. So too was Joao Mario’s Sporting Lisbon team mate William Carvalho, who is reportedly a transfer target for both Chelsea and Everton, according to the Metro.

Calm and composed Carvalho

The 24-year-old holding midfielder plays with controlled aggression and composure, whilst being a tough tackler, who has a wonderful sense of position and ability to read the game.

By showcasing those attributes for both Portugal and Sporting Lisbon over the past three years, Carvalho has earned the admiration of some of the biggest clubs in Europe, with Chelsea and Everton identifying him as a player ideally suited to bolstering their midfield options.

It is understood that Sporting may be willing to listen to offers in the region of £30m for Carvalho, who was named the UEFA European U-21 Championship player of the tournament and now has 25 international caps to his name.

Eder: Portugal’s unlikely Euro 2016 hero

Euro 2016

Almost as unlikely as Portugal winning Euro 2016, was their match winner in the final against France.

When Cristiano Ronaldo went off injured after just 25 minutes, Portuguese prospects of winning a first European Championship suffered a damaging blow, since they lost their main goal – scoring threat.

As such Ronaldo’s team mates were required to assume a greater level of responsibility for trying to unlock the French defence without their talismanic captain.

Euro Ecstasy for Eder

The Portuguese players did that collectively and came close to scoring on numerous occasions, before Eder found the net with a wonderful low 25-yard drive.

Prior to appearing as a substitute against France, when he was introduced for Renato Sanches after 79 minutes, Eder’s involvement in the finals had been extremely limited. Specifically he had only made two other late substitute appearances in Portugal’s first two group games against Iceland and Austria, which those amounting to approximately 15 minutes of playing time for the Lille forward.

Given that Eder’s emergence from the bench to score Portugal’s winning goal in the final was entirely unexpected, as he became the sixth substitute to score in a European Championship final, with Olivier Bierhoff, Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres having previously done so.

The manner in which Eder controlled the ball from Joao Moutinho’s pass, strongly resisted the challenge of Laurent Koscielny, before sending a powerful 25-yard shot into the net, displayed a confidence which defied both the striker’s lack of game time at the finals and indifferent club form over the past year.

Differing spells at season at Lille and Swansea

Whilst playing for Swansea, whom he joined from Sporting Braga in June 2015 for a fee in the region of £5m, during the first half of the 2015-16 season, Eder did not score in 15 appearances.

Following that barren run of form, he was loaned to Lille in the January transfer window and quickly established himself as an important member of the French Ligue 1 club’s squad.

By scoring six goals in 13 Ligue 1 games, Eder helped Lille finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League, whilst earning himself a four-year contract with the club and a place in Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad in the process.

Rising to international stardom

Eder’s only other experience of playing in a major international tournament arrived at the 2014 World Cup when he made one start and two substitute appearances, as Portugal were eliminated at the group stage.

Furthermore before his superb strike against France, Eder had never scored in a competitive international game, with his three previous goals coming in friendly’s against Italy, Norway and Estonia.

Ultimately there could scarcely have been a better time for Eder to register his first competitive goal for Portugal as he became Selecao’s unlikely Euro 2016 final goal-scoring saviour and enhanced his reputation on the senior international stage.

Misfiring Griezmann can’t lead France to Euro 2016 glory

Antoine Griezmann France Euro 2016

France forward Antoine Griezmann underperformed as Les Blues suffered a narrow defeat to Portugal in the final of Euro 2016 on Sunday night, missing two gilt-edged chances, and after the game admitted being “frustrated” at not beating the goalkeeper. “We hit the post, I had chances as well and I almost scored. The goalkeeper played well, too. It’s frustrating, but we must come back stronger,” said the Atletico Madrid man.

Griezmann had two headed efforts either side of half-time, forcing a finger-tip save from the impressive Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal, and putting another chance over the bar from close range when it looked easier for him to score. Given how good his heading has been in the Euros so far, it was a shock to see the Frenchman spurn such an opportunity, but his profligacy summed up Les Blues’ evening.

France were big favourites to win in the final after impressively beating Germany in the semi-final, but they couldn’t breach a stubborn Portugal backline at the Stade de France to get themselves ahead. “It’s cruel and magnificent at the same time. We’ve lived through some extraordinary moments, and the saddest moments as well. We have to learn. But tonight we gave it all and we have no regrets.”

Griezmann picked up the Golden Boot for his six goals and two assists in Euro 2016, and while pleased to be so prolific, the Atletico forward admitted it was hard to celebrate off the back of France’s final defeat. The 25-year-old formed a potent partnership with Olivier Giroud in the latter stages, but the two struggled on Sunday, and Griezmann said he’s too disappointed to cherish winning the Golden Boot award.

“Maybe later I can feel proud, but for now, it’s about the group. I’m very disappointed for my team-mates. I really wanted to offer them this trophy, but I couldn’t score and I’m disappointed. I’m proud of the squad, proud of everybody. Now we have to come back stronger. This time we didn’t manage it, unlike against Germany. It is a pity,” he added.

France’s only defeat in the tournament came in the final, and it was only the second time they were shutout by an opponent. Portugal made waves in the Euros for their defensive record, and such a robust approach was the difference in the end. Portugal had ground France down by extra time, and were looking more likely of scoring in their brief forays forward.

Questions of Deschamps as France let Euro 2016 slip away

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All the signs pointed to a French party. They started the Euro 2016 Final as clear favourites against a Portugal team which had clawed their way to the Stade de France showdown. France, meanwhile, were riding high following victory over Germany.

They had the chance to equal Michel Platini’s team of 1984 which won the European Championships on home soil. And the class of 1998. Captain then, Didier Deschamps could be a national hero once more.

But this was a tournament for ending hoodoos. Italy ended their barren spell against Spain. Germany then finally beat the Azzurri in a major tournament. Portugal came into the Final without a win in their last 10 against France. That included the Semi-finals of Euro ‘84 and 2000, plus the World Cup six years later. And the French did themselves no favours on a moth-infested Sunday in Paris.

Even with Portugal losing talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and France holding the ascendency, the game remained scoreless. Deschamps said afterwards the French “lost together”, although some of his decisions were curious, to say the least.

He has battled with midfield balance throughout the tournament. It started when it became clear Antoine Griezmann would be better suited to playing centrally. A man in form, Deschamps went with the Atletico Madrid player. For the Quarter-final with Iceland he was fielded in a 4-2-3-1 behind Olivier Giroud. But in the reshuffle, Deschamps had Paul Pogba become the holding midfielder.

On Sunday the Juventus man did not have a licence to get forward. It was Moussa Sissoko and Blaise Matuidi doing that. While offering energy, they lack the craft of Pogba. France needed that to unlock a resolute Portuguese defence.

They did create chances – Griezmann had a header in each half and Andre-Pierre Gignac hit the post in second half injury time, but the longer it went on the more France grew anxious. And Portugal grew in confidence. Deschamps substitutions, aside from throwing on Anthony Martial after the Portuguese goal, did little to change the course of the match.

There appeared no French fluidity through the centre, or cohesiveness in their attacking play. Would releasing Pogba have changed anything? It would have helped. Don’t forget, he was heavily involved in the second goal against Germany, minutes after N’Golo Kante came on to protect the base of midfield.

Portugal got the only goal in extra-time, leaving France to wonder how they let another home tournament triumph slip through their grasp. When tasked with breaking down a firm defence neither the players or coach had an answer.