Can Ronaldo be stopped? Will Pogba or Sanches step up? TEAMtalk looks at the talking points ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2016 final.
One of France or Portugal will this weekend be celebrating Euro 2016 glory at the Stade de France.
Ahead of Sunday’s mouth-watering finale, here are the five key talking points:
WILL FRANCE TRIUMPH ON HOME SOIL AGAIN?
Didier Deschamps’ men are looking to follow in the footsteps of the European Championship-winning side of 1984 and the 1998 World Cup squad by lifting a trophy on home soil. Les Bleus have improved markedly after a cumbersome start to Euro 2016 and head into the final buoyed by a 2-0 victory against world champions Germany. They will have 24 hours less recovery time than Portugal, but their coach Deschamps knows a thing or two about winning on such a stage having captaining the triumphant 1998 and Euro 2000 sides.
CAN PORTUGAL MAKE HISTORY?
It is 12 years since the Portuguese stepped out in their only previous major tournament final. Euro 2004 looked to be there for the hosts’ taking, yet they fell short in the most excruciating of circumstances to surprise package Greece. Angelos Charisteas’ header still sticks in the craw but Sunday can help erase those painful memories.
CAN RONALDO BE STOPPED?
Cristiano Ronaldo was part of the starting line-up that day in Lisbon and his determination to make amends is clear. Unlike Euro 2004, the shoe is on the other foot as the 31-year-old looks to break the hosts’ hearts, with his display in the semi-final against Wales suggesting the French defence is in for a tough night. Whoever partners Laurent Koscielny in central defence will have to be alert to stop Ronaldo, who knows a goal at the Stade de France would see him usurp France’s Michel Platini as the all-time top scorer in European Championship finals.
WILL POGBA OR SANCHES SHINE?
Both sides boast exceptionally-talented midfielders that are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to their potential. Paul Pogba’s undoubted ability is highlighted by the fact Manchester United are said to be ready to fork out a world-record fee for a player they let slip out of the Old Trafford door four years ago. Fantastic in possession and boasting wonderful vision, the 23-year-old is to come up against teenager Renato Sanches in midfield. The 18-year-old has impressed for Portugal and his duel with Pogba should be fascinating.
WILL THE ENGLISH PRESENCE BE NOTICED?
There have been precious few major refereeing mistakes at Euro 2016 and Mark Clattenburg will be hoping the final goes off without a hitch. England have long since gone home but there will be five English officials overseeing Sunday’s final. Assistants Simon Beck and Jake Collin are joined by Anthony Taylor and Andre Marriner in the Clattenburg-led team in Paris. The 41-year-old officiated the Champions League and FA Cup finals in May, receiving criticism in some quarters for his performance during the latter.
Simon Peach, Press Association