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Five key battles between France and Portugal ahead of Euro 2016 final

Holly Thackeray | July 8, 2016

Five key player battles for Portugal v France

It’s here, the big game has arrived. Sunday is the day to keep in your diaries as hosts France pit their wits against Portugal in the Euro 2016 showpiece finale at the Stade de France.

These two titans of European football have had vastly different routes to the finale, but their paths will now cross in a clash for the crown.

Duly, Coral writers have come up with five key player battles to watch out for in this fantastic fray, as we consider who from Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo will come out tops in their personal duels.

So, stock up on snacks for the Euro extravaganza and follow all the betting build-up with us…

Cristiano Ronaldo v Hugo Lloris

Soccer - Champions League - 1/8 Final Match - Olympique Lyonnais vs Real Madrid - Gerland Stadium
In Portugal’s top scorer and joint leading all-time European Championship marksman Ronaldo, cat-like keeper Lloris faces his most formidable opponent of the tournament so far.

Against a rather toothless Germany, the Tottenham post protector pulled out all the stops, while also keeping a clean sheet against even more blunt Switzerland.

With a depleted defence in front of him though, Spurs stopper Lloris (19/10 to help France win to nil in 90 mins) has still seen four strikes squeeze past him, including two against Iceland.

This wrangle with superstar Ronaldo may well prove the most rigorous interrogation of his quality for club and country to date on a big stage, but the prolific Portuguese is 9/2 to score first in St-Denis.

Nani v Samuel Umtiti

Euro 2016 - France v Germany - Antoine Griezmann - Marseille
In support of rampant Ronaldo has been his former Manchester United clubmate Nani (11/4 to tuck away a chance anytime), though the new Valencia signing has been a substantial net threat himself whilst roaming all over the pitch.

Nani popped up against Wales to seal the win last time out for his third of the tournament. Though, this time trying to impede his smart off the ball movement will be young defender Umtiti.

With just two caps to his name, the fledgling Frenchman may seem an easy target for Nani’s nous, but in fact the recent Barcelona signing has reinvigorated Les Bleus’ backline, seamlessly shutting down semi-final opponents Germany.

If Umtiti and rearguard partner Laurent Koscielny can keep outlet Nani quiet, they may also be able to restrict Ronaldo’s options.

Renato Sanches v Paul Pogba

EURO 2016 - Wales vs Portugal - Lyon
Here is perhaps the billboard battle of the night, between expensively priced young midfield dynamos Sanches and Pogba, with the two tipped to be leading midfield talents of the future.

In the present, it is Pogba who is the more polished of the pair (though admittedly older), but Sanches has shown an effortless ability to step up the gears and has arguably been the more consistent in France.

A lovely strike against Poland showed Sanches has more strings to his bow than just passing and high energy patrolling, with Les Bleus needing to look out for his long range rifles.

While, Pogba put in more defensive effort in a midfield duo against Germany, but may well struggle to unleash his attacking prowess in this high pressure situation if impressive Sanches is pressing for the Portuguese.

Pepe v Antoine Griezmann

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League - Final - San Siro
If Pepe is fit to play it will be an enormous boost to Portugal’s backline. A controversial character prone to rash tackles with a couple of unsavory incidents peppering his career, the bullish centre back could do a better job of keeping Madrid derby rival Griezmann at bay than either ageing Bruno Alves or Ricardo Carvalho.

Much more physical and faster than his compatriots, Pepe can be a bully at the back but, if he is not 100 per cent should he take to the pitch, in-form Griezmann’s movement and intelligence could run the Navigators ragged.

The support striker is seeking a seventh tournament strike and would relish facing a rearguard without Pepe, as the pair having the measure of each other after repeated competitions at club level.

Leading the Euro scoring chart after a brilliant brace against Die Mannschaft, Griezmann should prove a handful for Portugal and is 5/1 to dispatch a double or more again.

Jose Fonte v Olivier Giroud

Arsenal v Southampton - Barclays Premier League - The Emirates Stadium
Southampton centre back Fonte is a sturdy defender and comes up against a very familiar French foe in Arsenal frontman Giroud.

The centre forward looked lethargic last time out and his form in the competition has been a mixed bag, which could see Fonte mark the striker out of the match.

A Giroud with a point to prove can be dangerous, but Fonte has managed to help Saints silence the sharpshooter in all four of their past Premier League meetings, giving Portugal an edge in this battle.

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