Ahead of the 2016 European Championship final, France and Portugal UAE-based fans give their verdict on the game.
To gain an insight into the mindset of the fans we asked UAE fans to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.
Do you agree or have they missed the mark?
FRANCE – Yves Thapele (E-commerce manager, Dubai)
Football truly is a powerful and magical sport. What a joy it has been to see the happiness that Les Bleus have brought to the faces of the French public. Yes, we didn’t play particularly well against Germany. But do we care? No! We are in the final and that is all that matters. We are not bothered about how we win this tournament, just that Hugo Lloris is lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy on Sunday night, as his coach Didier Deschamps did 16 years ago.
Today, France believes that European Championship glory will be ours. We love this team because they have given us a wonderful ride during the tournament and there have been some wonderful performances throughout the team. Hugo Lloris, Dimitri Payet, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann – these are the heroes for a new generation of French fans.
There is a feeling now that this Bleu wave is unstoppable. Germany was our hardest test but we passed it. We beat the world champions! Our coach is a winner, too. He won the 1998 World Cup and he won Euro 2000 – now he will win Euro 2016 as a coach.
In November 2015, France was at a low ebb after the terrorist attacks on Paris. I saw my countrymen crying. Now, we have a chance to cry together again, but this time they will be tears of joy. As I said, football is a magical thing, and it has united France again.
Allez Les Bleus.
PREDICTION: France 3-1 Portugal
LIKELY XI: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Samuel Umtiti, Patrice Evra; Moussa Sissokho, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet
FRANCE PLAYER TO WATCH: Antoine Griezmann – Has emerged as the star of this tournament and unless Cristiano Ronaldo manages to score a hat-trick, he will be walking away as the Euro 2016 top scorer, and probably its best player too. His pace, his finishing, his composure – Griezmann has truly proven himself world class.
PORTUGAL PLAYER TO WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo – He is the world’s best player and he showed in the semi-final that you can never write him off. He had a terrible first-half against Wales but then came out and scored a header with so much hang time that Michael Jordan would have been proud. France must watch him in the air and on the ground, he is a real superstar.
WHERE TO WATCH THE GAME: Barasti will be rocking!
PORTUGAL – Francisco Alves (Architect, Dubai)
Whenever France host a major national football tournament, they usually end up winning – as evidenced by both Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup. At the World Cup, France didn’t kick-off as well as expected and they even faced a fair share a criticism from the media and their own supporters, but step-by-step they managed to gradually improve their performances throughout the knockout stages, eventually winning the final in a flawless match against Brazil.
Likewise, 18 years later, Portugal’s arrival to a place in the final has been considered by many (especially the anti-Ronaldo brigade) as ‘unfair’ and ‘unworthy’, but the fact that we’ve managed to overcome every challenge with immunity to not only outside criticism but also some internal skepticism has made us stronger.
Let’s face it, taking on the hosts in the final at their national stadium are pretty much the worst circumstances possible. Not only can France boast a powerfully balanced set of players, but also the unity of the French supporters behind Les Bleus will be a colossal challenge for Portugal to overcome. Looking back to the the historic record between both nations shows us that France has a head start. I still remember how Portugal were knocked-out by France at Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup.
Fernando Santos has his full squad available and both Pepe and William Carvalho should return to the starting line-up to ensure an even more defensively composed side. After the semi-final victory, Ronaldo said “we shall dream about winning the title, while it is still free to do so”, and the vision of lifting the trophy should bring all the necessary motivation for Portugal to win this final in heroic fashion.
PREDICTION: France 1-2 Portugal (aet)
LIKELY PORTUGAL XI: Rui Patricio; Cedric Soares, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, Renato Sanches, Joao Mario; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo
PORTUGAL PLAYER TO WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo – He will be carrying the pressure of 11 million Portuguese dreams on his shoulders, but great players are made for great challenges and Ronaldo has proven before to be fired up when decisive matches like this come along. The Real Madrid star has broken almost every individual record put before him and can create history in the final – by being the first Portuguese captain to lift a major trophy above his head.
FRANCE PLAYER TO FEAR: Antoine Griezmann – No matter the outcome of today’s match, Griezmann is already the strongest contender to be win the Euro 2016 Golden Ball. He had a terrific season with Atletico Madrid and his performances for France have confirmed him as one of the most lethal forwards in football today. Everyone was expecting this to be Paul Pogba’s tournament, but Griezmann’s six goals in six matches have seen him steal the limelight.
WHERE TO WATCH THE GAME: Barasti Beach Bar
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