Who made the cut? Portugal v France in Coral’s combined Euro 2016 final XI
Holly Thackeray | July 9, 2016
And then there were two. Only France and Portugal are left to contest the Euro 2016 crown, with their players having excelled to propel their respective nations to this stage.
Having both traveled perilous paths to secure a spot in the showpiece, what would a top combined XI from these two triumphant teams look like?
Coral writers pick out the best of the bunch from both sides based on the tournament so far. Let us know if you agree with our selections in the comments below or whether we have overlooked a key component!
So, without further ado here is our cracking combined team plucked from the Portugal and France squads…
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (France)
Portugal’s Rui Patricio has kept the same number of clean sheets, three, as Les Bleus number one Lloris at Euro 2016 so far.
Yet, it was the Spurs stopper who truly excelled in the crunch clash with Germany, with one particularly spectacular save to shut out hungry Thomas Muller and deny Die Mannschaft – which gives him the edge for our position between the posts.
Right back: Bacary Sagna (France)
Sagna may be 33, and backup at Manchester City, but his exploits for France on the right defensive flank have proven he still has plenty in the tank.
A crucial assist against the Republic of Ireland highlighted his threat going forward, and he’s looked a lot more explosive on the overlap than competition for this spot Cedric Soares.
Centre back: Pepe (Portugal)
Pepe missed out on arguably Portugal’s best showing against Wales in the semi-final but, love him or loathe him, this Marmite defender was crucial in marshaling the Navigators at the back.
Much has been made of Portugal’s failure to win in normal time at the tournament until their defeat of the Dragons, but they have also gone unbeaten, with Pepe a key figure due to his imposing physicality and will to win. France will be happy not to face him if he misses the final.
Centre back: Laurent Koscielny (France)
This one was a close call between compatriots Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti, who has taken to the big stage like a duck to water, but the former scoops this central defensive spot for being a reliable France fixture.
Having manned the fort in all six competition clashes so far, despite defensive depletion before the tournament began and switching between partners Umtiti and Adil Rami, Koscielny deserves plaudits for his sturdy contribution to the semis clean sheet.
Left back: Patrice Evra (France)
By all accounts, evergreen Evra’s leadership and camaraderie in the changing room has been a huge factor in France’s unity and subsequent success.
Certainly older and wiser now at 35, the Senegal-born full back has more than fulfilled the requirements of his role in both attack and defence. A consistent perfomer with plenty left to contribute, though his opposite number for Portugal, France-born Raphael Guerreiro, is one to watch out for in the future.
Centre midfield: Renato Sanches (Portugal)
Sanches, still a teenager, has a point to prove following his big money transfer to Bayern Munich from Benfica, and he has already more than lived up to the price tag.
A driving force forward from midfield, Sanches has given the impression of someone who can cover every blade of grass and hound the opposition for 90 minutes, but still have the stamina to finish off chances at the other end of the pitch.
The 18-year-old’s strike against Poland proved pivotal but it is his all-round assured displays at such a young age that hints at a superb season to come in Bavaria.
Centre midfield: Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba has answered a fair few critics in this competition, but not quite all of them, with a few pundits expecting more from the young Frenchmen than his one goal and one assist so far.
Still, the talent is there for all to see, as Pogba has grown into his leading role in midfield, especially in the second 45 against Germany. Does a huge summer move to England or Spain beckon? First France expects in the final, where Les Bleus are 2/1 to win in normal time.
Right wing: Nani (Portugal)
New Valencia signing Nani has been just as important as former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo for the Navigators, with the pair both sparking to life as attacking partners up top.
Goals against Wales, Hungary and Iceland plus an assist ensure Nani makes it into our XI, as his career renaissance continues now for his country aged 29.
Left wing: Dimitri Payet (France)
The star of the group stage, Payet has been pulling strings throughout, with his three goals and two assists the cherry on the cake of potent performances.
France will be looking to the West Ham United man to make the difference in the final, as his incredible ascent continues. Cutting in from wide to spray his penetrating passes and a superb set-piece threat, in the Euros Payet has proven his game changing credentials at the top level more than once.
Support striker: Antoine Griezmann (France)
If Payet stole the headlines in the opening games it is Griezmann (3/1 to score and France to win in 90 mins with max stake £20) who grabbed them back in the latter rounds as he romped to a leading scorer haul of six strikes.
Easily the best forward at the finals with his intelligent movement on and off the ball, the future is bright in a France shirt for Griezmann, who has the chance at just 25 to surpass Ronaldo and Michel Platini’s joint all-time Euro tally of nine goals in the future.
Centre forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
In some ways the Navigators have rode their luck to reach the final two, but Ronaldo was the superstar to step up when it counted, shrugging of spot-kick misses to truly lead Portugal at this tournament.
His headed opener against Wales will long stay in the memory, as the Real Madrid forward (6/5 to score anytime) drew level with Platini’s coveted and long-standing Euro scorer haul, and continues to smash records. Taking Portugal to a second European Championship final is no small feat.