Euro 2016 - The Final

It has taken 50 games, but finally we know which two countries will do battle in the biggest game of European football this Sunday for the right to be crowned Euro 2016 winners!

After a full month of what has been a great festival of football, host nation France take on Portugal at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday 10th July at 8.00pm (UK time).

France will be the favourites to clinch their 3rd European Championship but will have an expectant home crowd behind them to add to the pressure of trying to lift the Henri Delauney Trophy while Portugal will be keen to win the tournament and banish the memories of their loss on home soil in 2004 and triumph for a first time.



France's route to the final saw them win Group A with 7 points out of a possible 9, though they required a last minute winner from Dimitri Payet against Romania in the tournament opener, and then scored twice in injury-time to see off a brave Albania side.  A 0-0 draw with Switzerland saw the French finish top of the group and earn a trip to Lyon to take on the Republic of Ireland.

Still not playing up to their tag as one of the pre-tournament favourites, the hosts were stunned after just 2 minutes when Robbie Brady converted a penalty to give the Irish a 1-0 lead but a double from Antoine Griezmann put France 2-1 ahead and into the Quarter Finals.

Shock troops Iceland were the opponents for France in the quarters, but their adventure was brought to an end after Les Bleus put in their best performance of the competition to demolish Iceland 5-2.  A double for Olivier Giroud and single markers for Dimitri Payet, Paul Pogba and Griezmann saw the hosts book a place in the semi-finals against World champions Germany in Marseille.

A packed Vélodrome saw France take the lead just before half-time after a Bastian Schweinsteiger handball gifted the French a penalty which Griezmann duly dispatched and he added his 2nd of the game, and tournament leading 6th of the competition, on 72 minutes to send France through to Sunday's final amid joyous scenes in Marseille's great stadium.



Opponents for the final Portugal haven't enjoyed the best campaign but have done the job when required to make it through to Sunday's showpiece.

Favourites to win a group containing Austria, Hungary and Iceland, the Portuguese were stunned in their opener by the Icelanders as the Nordic island held their more heralded opponents to a 1-1 draw in Saint-Étienne, Nani scoring the goal for Portugal.  Things looked bleak for Portugal's hopes of qualifying after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Austria, and when they could only manage a 3-3 draw with group winners Hungary it meant that they just sneaked out of the group stages as one of the best 3rd place teams by a margin of 2 goals.

The 3-3 draw with the Hungarians did finally see superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo get on the scoresheet with a double.  This match also showed the fighting qualities of the side as three times they came from being a goal behind to level the contest.

In what was one of the worst games of the competition, Portugal edged past Croatia in the last 16 with a goal from Ricardo Quaresma in extra-time while they made their way into the semi-finals with a 5-3 win over Poland on penalties after both sides played out a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.  Goalkeeper Rui Patricio being the hero as he saved Jakub Blaszczykowski's penalty to send the Portuguese through to a semi-final against Wales.

The semi-final proved a step too far for Chris Coleman's brave dragons as a clinical 4 minute spell saw former Manchester United team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani bag the vital goals to see Portugal reach the final in Saint-Denis with a 2-0 win.



With 6 goals in the tournament, France's exciting 25 year old forward Antoine Griezmann is the favourite to win the Golden Boot and emulate French hero Michel Platini who bagged 9 goals in France's triumph in 1984.  Platini's record of the most goals of all-time in the competition with 9 was equalled by Cristiano Ronaldo in the semi-final who will look to take the lead with a vital goal for his country in the final.  Ronaldo also became the first player to play in 3 European Championship semi-finals and he will be keen to lead Portugal to glory and make up for the disappointment in Lisbon 12 years ago.

The final between France and Portugal means that for the first time ever, a team wearing a Nike football kit will win the European Championship, ending a drought at World and European level for the American brand stretching back to 2002 when Brazil won the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.  Since then, bar Italy's win at the 2006 World Cup, adidas-sponsored teams have dominated the World Cup and European Championships so the finals will be seen as a triumph for the swoosh over the 3-stripes with their Nike Vapor kit design.

France and Portugal have met each other 24 times, with France holding the upper hand with 18 wins, 1 draw and only 5 defeats.  The sides have only played 3 games against each other competitively though, bizarrely all being semi-finals.

On the two occasions France have won the European Championships, they have beaten Portugal in the semi-finals, winning 3-2 in 1984 and 2-1 in 2000, while at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a Zinedine Zidane penalty was enough to put the French into the final.  Portugal will be hoping that Sunday is 4th time lucky and that they finally get the better of their most illustrious opponents.

Both nations should have their full squad to choose from ahead of the final so expect the French to line-up with Payet and Pogba in midfield and Giroud and Griezmann up front.  Portugal will likely continue with their disciplined defensive style and look to catch the hosts on the break with the speed of Ronaldo, Nani and the exciting Renato Sanches being the main threats to France's hopes of a 3rd triumph at the Euros.

It promises to be an exciting end to a great tournament and whoever wins on Sunday will be crowned worthy winners of the European Championship.

Below are just some of the highlights and best moments of Euro 2016.



In the opening game of Euro 2016 France struggled to get past a resilient Romania side and it took until the last minute for a great curling effort into the top corner from midfielder Dimitri Payet to win the game and the points for the host nation.

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Group E contained two of the powerhouses of European football and they met on June 13th in Lyon.  Belgium were fancied to edge this game but in typical Italian style the Azzurri counter-attacked beautifully to win 2-0 and set themselves on the way to reaching the Quarter Finals.

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England didn't have the best of tournaments, drawing with Russia and Slovakia and needing an injury-time winner to see off Wales on the way to finishing runners-up in Group B.  Still, they were fancied to make easy work of first-time finalists Iceland in the last 16.  However, the Icelanders stunned their more famous opponents coming from a goal down to win 2-1 and reach the Quarter Finals where their adventure was ended by France.

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Wales were one of the best teams at Euro 2016, winning Group B thanks to wins over Slovakia and Russia.  An unfortunate own goal from Gareth McAuley saw Wales beat Northern Ireland in the 2nd Round before they played their best match of the tournament in the Quarter Finals demolishing Belgium 3-1.  Their incredible journey came to an end in the semi-finals at the hands of Portugal but every player in the Welsh camp will be returning home to a hero's welcome after a great Euro 2016.

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