THE 51st and final match of Euro 2016. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) shares his views on the Paris finale.
France v Portugal | Sunday 20:00 | BBC/ITV
Well here we are then. The end of the tournament, the end of Euro 2016. It’s been a disappointing renewal for me. The lack of goals in the initial matches didn’t get me down but as the competition continued to evolve in an unspectacular fashion my positivity started to wane.
For what it’s worth, my gut feel is that there is no outstanding side in the competition and only maybe three at the level below that (France, Germany and Spain). The rest are not sides that will be remembered continent-wide in years to come. A much of a muchness if you like.
Sunday’s final is a classic goodies v baddies match. France (the goodies) arrive here unbeaten, fresh from knocking out the world champions and with memories of a devastating terrorist attack on the nation still fresh in the country’s psyche. That’s a narrative for you!
Portugal have won just one of their six matches at this tournament in 90 minutes. Their brand of football is a far cry from the attacking, exciting style we saw from the nation 12 years ago when they last reached the final.
They finished third in their group behind Hungary and Iceland (an unthinkable tricast this time last month) and only one of their six games has saw Over 2.5 Goals.
So what kind of game will we get on Sunday night? Well, like the layers, I can see it resembling the tournament as a whole. Unfulfilling, tense and maybe a bit dull.
Portugal’s unadventurous style has reaped the rewards for them and the side are nothing if not game. That Last 16 win over Croatia told you all about them. Dogged and dull in equal measure.
Would it be unfair to say that France have had a soft run to the final? They were in a group where just two sides qualified and never looked completely in control in any of their three matches.
From there they went behind early against the Republic Of Ireland before recovering to win 2-1 aided and abetted by the Irish being down to 10 men.
Their win over Iceland was thumping but there’s a reasonable line of thought to suggest the Icelanders had run out of juice after their historic win over England six days later.
Yes, the semi-final win was excellent over Germany but let’s not forget they got battered in the first half and their stoppage time penalty in the opening 45 shaped the rest of the match.
Perhaps it’s the first half of the campaign that we can draw inspiration from here. The French found it tough against Romania in Game 1 leaving it till the 57th minute before they scored and things got even harder against Albania with both goals coming after the 89th minute. Their final group game was a 0-0 draw against Switzerland.
One can imagine Portugal playing the Albania and Romania role on Sunday and we could see another real struggle for France to break down their opponents.
The Over/Unders markets have been priced up with a France struggle very much in mind. The best price for Under 2.5 is just 11/21 (slightly bigger than 1/2) so a leap into the Under 1.5 selection at 13/8 has to be done.
Another angle to consider for this match is that the emotion of Thursday night’s win over Germany may have taken it’s toll on France and they make time to find their feet.
I’ll back the first goal to come after 34 minutes at 11/10 with Paddy Power. Eight of France’s 13 goals have come in the second half and that’s a trend I like with regard to a sluggish start.
To top off my bets I’ll have a small interest in a 1-0 French win at 5/1. It’s not sexy, it’s not a massive price but it looks logical. Bring on the action!
France v Portugal – Under 1.5 Goals (13/8 Netbet)
France v Portugal – First Goals After 34 Minutes (11/10 Paddy Power)
France v Portugal – France to win 1-0 (5/1 Netbet)