Portugal v France: Payet creativity to guide hosts to victory
Portugal have reached the final of Euro 2016 by sticking with a particular formula in the knockout rounds which involves being defensively compact in central areas, difficult to break down and then looking to pinch something on the counter attack.
With the individual capabilities of strike pairing Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, Fernando Santos has at his disposal two attackers capable of individual brilliance and moments of magic.
Ronaldo has had virtually double the number of goal attempts than anyone else in the competition and this is without the Portuguese having any true creativity linking defence and attack.
What this means for France is a complete role reversal from their semi-final success over Germany, where they were forced to soak up pressure and perform their own counter-attacking gameplan.
They rode their luck at times as Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil were allowed to run the game and if Germany had a more reliable presence in the box, they could have made France pay for their lack of an aware defensive midfielder protecting the back four.
France’s 4-2-3-1 should be a better fit against a Portugal side lacking a probing playmaker, especially for Dimitri Payet, who will almost certainly spend far less time tracking runners back towards his own goal.
Euro 2016 top scorer Antoine Griezmann can be expected to be shadowed everywhere by William Carvalho and it is in the wide areas where the host nation can make the biggest impact.
Payet does his most effective work in such parts of the pitch and only Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne has sent over more successful crosses or created more chances for teammates at the tournament so far than the West Ham man.
Given Payet was the star of the show in the tournament opener when France beat Romania, it would be somewhat fitting if he produced another man-of-the-match display to bring the curtain down on the competition.
France are 21/20 to triumph in 90 minutes and 4/9 to lift the trophy.
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