Despite a whole lot of chances, Les Blues were unable to cash upon them to produce the final ball that would have got them to their aspiration of 16 years. France had first won the European trophy in 1984 and they had next achieved the laurel exactly 16 years later in 2000; both wins were on home soil.
Like Thierry Henry, the French great who has 6 Euro goals and the winner of 2000, had said before the game that this Euro at home was exactly 16 years from the last win. This was France’s big chance to get their name carved at another European trophy and again at home.
France didn’t exactly begin the tournament with a roar winning 2-1 against Romania, 2-0 against Albania and being held at 0-0 by Switzerland in the group stage.
Subsequently, from the Round of 16, Antoine Griezmann rose as France’s star when he scored a brace against Republic of Ireland to help his team win 2-1. Post the group stage, getting a much central role enabled Griezmann to produce his best match after match and France displayed much more decisiveness and flair in their performances.
They had the home advantage, the odds favoured them and France were betted upon as winners of European Championship 2016 but after a confident and strong performance against Iceland and Germany, what went wrong for the French?
First of all, France couldn’t make the best of the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. When Ronaldo went down after the injury, France had the chance put a nail in the coffin. Portugal were scattered and their morale was down and France could have slaughtered their entire spirit with just one goal but somehow France couldn’t push forward and Portugal got the time to breathe and gather themselves.
Another factor that let them down was the form of Oliver Giroud. Giroud was France’s man on the front but he hardly showed the promise he did against Iceland. He couldn’t bring that strength, power and awareness that was expected of him. Portugal were able to quieten the likes of Griezmann, Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba. Apart from getting an opportunity or two, these French stars were unable to break through the compact unit of four in the Portuguese defence. Pepe, Jose Fonte, William Carvalho and Raphael Guerreiro did an outstanding job as Portugal’s back line. Portugal showed that defending as a unit can win games.
France had a ray of hope in the form of Moussa Sissoka who was their man of the match as he managed to create chances and trouble the Portuguese defence more than anyone else but somehow, it seemed like, for France, it wasn’t meant to be.