Football

France's lack of leadership

On a night when they needed a charismatic leader to rally the troops, France had no figurehead to turn to.

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon blamed Les Bleus' 1-0 extra-time defeat by Portugal on the lack of leadership when the chips were down.

"At the World Cup in 1998, they had a lot of big characters in the French team - (Emmanuel) Petit, (Laurent) Blanc, all of them lot. You look at the game tonight and ask, 'Are there enough characters in there?'," said Dixon.

"Who was going to push them along? Maybe that was the only weakness in this French team."

His former Arsenal colleague Ian Wright slammed the performances of star men Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann.

"France never got into gear and they should be very disappointed with the way it's gone for them, especially with (Cristiano) Ronaldo limping out of the game," said ITV pundit Wright.

"They never got any impetus. Pogba nothing, Griezmann nothing, it didn't happen for them.

"They were almost waiting for something to happen and it didn't."

England legend Alan Shearer also believed France's big-game players went missing and cost them the tournament.

REGRET

He said: "Before the game, you say, 'Let's have no regrets'. The France team will tonight.

"They didn't play well. They had two or three chances to win, but we didn't see that energy.

"(Dimitri) Payet, Griezmann, Pogba - there was definitely something missing.

"They were subdued and it helped them (Portugal) win the game."

Former Manchester United Roy Keane thinks that Les Bleus froze under the pressure of delivering in front of their own fans.

"I think the pressure did get to France," said the Republic of Ireland assistant coach.

"They have enjoyed the home support throughout the tournament but, the longer the game went on tonight, you just felt it was going to be Portugal's night.

"Maybe the pressure got to some of their players tonight and it's amazing how it can play on the mind."

His former United teammate Ryan Giggs agreed, saying: 'It shows the pressure the favourites are under in the final."

And indeed, that turned out to be the case.

Even without Ronaldo, who was taken off on a stretcher (right) in the first half, Portugal held firm and were rewarded in the second half of extra time when Eder scored the winner.

Another former Arsenal defender Nigel Winterburn thinks Ronaldo deserves credit for the way he backed his Portugal teammates, despite coming off injured.

After being replaced midway through the first half following a strong challenge from Payet, Ronaldo re-appeared at the end of normal time and was seen encouraging his teammates from the dugout.

"A lot of people will be quite happy that this is not all about Ronaldo," Winterburn told Sky Sports News HQ,

"Yes, Ronaldo is their star player, but they also had other players in that team who were prepared to work and gave absolutely everything."

"In fairness to Ronaldo, I give him fantastic credit, too, because it's easy to think when you've been injured that you should be out there (on the pitch).

"However, he was backing his teammates right until the last moment and, although he's played only a small part in the final, you could see how much it meant to him."

Thierry Henry also praised Portugal for beating France despite the absence of Ronaldo.

Henry, who won the World Cup with France in 1998 and the Euros in 2000, said: "Firstly, well done to Portugal.

"You can win a tournament only as a team. Perfect example, Ronaldo comes off and they still win it.

"When you lose a big guy like that, you have to be resilient. And they won it for him." 
- Wire Services.

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