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History beckons for France and Portugal in Euro 2016 final

Sunday's final feature a clash between Madrid rivals, Ronaldo and Griezmann
9 Jul 2016 – 2:02 PM EDT

For all the other narratives that surround Sunday’s Euro 2016 final, it above all offers the chance of a place in history - and both teams know only the winners claim that.

Both finalists, France and Portugal, have rich pasts in the game albeit with contrasting fortunes when it comes to the biggest moments.

For France, a victory would allow them to take their place alongside previous generations as the country’s third team to win the European title.

The Bleus that won the Euros in 1984, with Michel Platini’s nine goals, Jean Tigana’s elegance and the intelligence of Alain Giresse will never be forgotten.

Nor will the special group that triumphed in the 1998 World Cup and then the Euros in Belgium and the Netherlands two years later - with the classy Lilian Thuram in defence, the magnificent Zinedine Zidane in midfield and Thierry Henry in attack.

Current coach Didier Deschamps was part of the Zidane era France, where he played as a central midfielder alongside the powerful Patrick Vieira.

While Deschamp’s class of 2016 may not have such established talent as the group he played in, the exciting ability of his young players has been evident in this tournament.

The most noticeable player of quality in the current France team is of course Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid forward.


With his six goals in this tournament - a record bettered only by Platini 32 years ago, and his ceaseless and clever movement, Griezmann is en route to win the player of the tournament as well as Golden Boot award for top scorer.

Paul Pogba has been hailed as the best all-round midfielder in the world due to his performances at club level with Juventus in Italy and while he hasn’t shined as much as expected here, the final is his chance to cement that status.

For Portugal, Sunday’s game at the Stade de France, offers more an opening to redemption - an opportunity to finally banish the pain of their final defeat, on home soil, to Greece,12 years ago.

Portuguese football looks back only with frustration on their ‘special crop’ of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Deco, because the best they managed was a runners-up spot on home soil in Euro 2004, where they were beaten by Greece in the final.

That bitter defeat, to a team that began the tournament as rank outsiders, was not only a major upset for the home crowd in Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz, but it lingers in the memory of Cristiano Ronaldo, who played on the wing as an 18-year-old in that game.


Portugal’s greatest player prior to Ronaldo, was Eusebio, who like Ronaldo won individual awards and plenty of club trophies, but was never able to grasp a trophy with his national team - his best ever achievement being a third place in the 1966 World Cup.

The pressure is on both teams for as Deschamps noted in his Saturday press conference:

“At the highest level, nothing is more beautiful than winning and victory is the only thing that counts.

"There is some uncertainty, it's not an exact science, and you may not win, but you have to do everything it takes to win and that is the state of mind we're in."

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