IT’S felt like a marathon more than sprint at times but we’ve finally reached the finale of Euro 2016.
Great games have been few and far between and that’s down to the increase in teams and too much caution shown by coaches playing not to lose.
Hosts France have battled through more comfortably than Portugal and will face in Paris on Sunday night.
I tipped Les Bleus on the anteposts and they’ve only suffered a couple of minor scares on their way to the Final.
Now it’s pragmatic Portugal v flamboyant France and home advantage should help see Didier Deschamps’s side across the line.
France have been the best team throughout the tournament but Portugal have proved impossible to beat and tough to break down.
I’m backing the favourites at 21-20 with McBookie and bet365 to win in 90 minutes and 4-9 at William Hill and Ladbrokes to qualify. Portugal are 15-8 at bet365 and 15-4 at Ladbrokes respectively while a draw in 90 minutes pays 11-5 at Ladbrokes and McBookie.
Either team to win on penalties pays 4-1 at Skybet and either to lift the trophy by winning in extra time is 13-2.
France weren’t brilliant in their semi-final against Germany but did enough to win. Deschamps will be pleased at the clean sheet after conceding two against Iceland while Antoine Griezmann has the Golden Boot wrapped up after a double took his tally to six.
He’ll be eyeing up No.7 against CR7 and Co and is 7-4 at Ladbrokes to net again. Griezmann has looked sharp in the past few games and I’m on the Atletico Madrid ace to net first at 9-2 at bet365.
Ronaldo needs to net three more than Griezmann to make it a top-scorer dead heat. That pays 66-1 but isn’t going to happen.
Critics are saying Portugal are the worst side to reach the Final since Greece won, ironically against Portugal in Lisbon in 2004, but that’s harsh.
Portugal boss Fernando Santos coached in Greece for eight years and managed the national team for four so it’s no surprise his side play like the 04 champions.
There’s one difference though – he has a matchwinner and superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star hasn’t been brilliant in France but has three goals and scored one and created one in the semi-final success against Wales.
Portugal brushed Wales aside with ease and can’t be underestimated but France should be fine as long as they keep Ronaldo quiet.
People said Wales were a one-man team – and they weren’t because Aaron Ramsey was sorely missed by Gareth Bale and his team-mates in the semis.
But Portugal rely so much on Ronaldo they let him do everything. He still takes every free-kick and still misses them all – in a sense he’s taken the burden of Portugal winning a trophy solely on his broad shoulders.
Ronaldo is 11-2 at McBookie to break the deadlock as he did against Wales and 23-10 to net at any time.
His powerful header is probably giving Deschamps nightmares as he’s almost unstoppable in those situations. Portugal have attempted more crosses per match (30) than anyone else in the tournament and are likely to have plenty of joy against ageing full-backs Backary Sagna and Patrice Evra.
Ronaldo is 10-1 to net with a header while Olivier Giroud is favourite in this market at 8-1.
Deschamps left out N’Golo Kante against Germany after he missed the Iceland win through suspension but I expect to see the Leicester star restored to the starting line-up.
France went with a 4-4-2 against the Germans and were dominated in midfield so Deschamps is could revert to 4-3-3 and if Kante can gain control against the likes of Renato Sanches he might win the man-of-the-match award. That pays 25-1 at McBookie while Griezmann is 9-2 favourite ahead of 5-1 Ronaldo.
Keep Ronaldo and Sanches quite and France will win this – possibly to nil at 19-10 with McBookie.
France to win to nil
Griezmann to score