Paris: Cristiano Ronaldo’s battle-hardened Portugal stand between hosts France and a cathartic victory in tomorrow’s Euro 2016 final at Stade de France. The stadium was targeted by suicide bombers during France’s friendly against Germany last November in attacks across Paris that left 130 people dead. It cast a black shadow over the tournament, but following a joyous semi-final victory over Germany, France aim to prevail in a third major final on home soil after the 1984 European Championship and 1998 World Cup.
“There is lots of fervour and lots of joy and happiness in France,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after the 2-0 win over Germany in Marseille. “It’s a really great story. We don’t claim to have the power to solve all the problems of the French people. But we have the power to generate emotions and make them forget their worries.” The November attacks, claimed by Islamic State, struck particularly close to France forward Antoine Griezmann.
He was on the pitch at Stade de France and his elder sister, Maud, survived the assault on the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris that claimed 89 lives. Griezmann missed a penalty for Atletico Madrid in their Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in May and made a poor start to the Euro in France’s 2-1 win over Romania. But after coming on to net a 90th-minute opener against Albania, he has emerged as the star of the tournament, scoring in knockout-phase wins over the Republic of Ireland, Iceland and Germany.
With six goals — three more than any other player — the 25-year-old is in line for both the Golden Boot and the UEFA player of the tournament prize. Ronaldo, however, served a timely reminder of his ability to decide a game with a brilliant bullet header in Portugal’s 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. More (AFP)
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