French legends confident of a third crown
Former star duo Makelele and Desailly believe French football is on the cusp of a new era
REPORTING FROM LYON
PORTUGAL v FRANCE
(Tomorrow, 2.50am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)
Years of preparation boil down to one match of football at the Stade de France.
France will feel it's their destiny.
They are the hot favourites to defeat Portugal in the final tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Winning Euro 2016 will be the perfect ending for the host nation.
But the pressure is also all on them.
Claude Makelele, a Champions League winner with Real Madrid and two-time English Premiership champion with Chelsea, is in no doubt that Les Bleus will deliver though.
"This is an amazing generation for France," the 43-year-old, who represented France from 1995 to 2008, told The New Paper.
"The national team made mistakes before, but they have learned from it.
"Now, you can see they want to fight for their country and take up the responsibility when they put on the national team jerseys.
"There is hardly any negative thinking in the camp, they just want to keep going and going. They will win the final."
One man who who knows all too well the demands and strain that come with the expectations of winning on home soil is Marcel Desailly.
He was an integral part of a swashbuckling French side containing the likes of Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and Didier Deschamps (now the France coach), one which won Euro 2000 and the 1998 World Cup, which France hosted.
Asked how this current French side compare with that of his era, the 47-year-old said: "If you remove Zidane from our generation, then this current group are probably better than us.
"They have great potential to start another era of French domination in world football. The talent is there.
"All they are missing is a bit of leadership.
"Something like this doesn't come straightaway, not from just one or two tournaments.
"Paul Pogba has the potential to become the leader, but don't forget we had four or five leaders in my team.
"It's so obvious that France will win the final.
"Portugal's form has gone up and down; they finished third in their group.
"They have shown great ability in their usage of the ball, but they haven't showed great ability as a team."
The contrast in styles between France and Portugal is stark.
France got to the final with a brand of attacking football that has thrilled the fans.
Portugal, meanwhile, have been relying on a cautious approach despite having excellent offensive options in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, Renato Sanches and Luis Nani.
It is a philosophy that has drawn plenty of criticism.
Makelele thinks it will be almost impossible to see Portugal coach Fernando Santos changing an effective formula at this late stage.
He said: "Portugal play in a 'competition way'. They don't have to prove anything to anyone.
"France must entertain the home fans and the people of France.
"Sure, I would like to see Portugal open up the game and demonstrate why they deserve to be in the final.
"But, in football, not everything is exactly how you want it. Portugal just want to win the trophy.
"They started the tournament playing like that and, in the final, they will play like that, too. You can't change anything."
Desailly believes that one man can prove to be the difference in the final.
In Antoine Griezmann, the tournament top-scorer with six goals in six appearances, he can see the future of France.
He said of the Atletico Madrid striker, who scored both goals against Germany in his team's 2-0 semi-final win: "I would say the best French player in this tournament is Griezmann. His movement is excellent, and he has the ability to score important goals.
"Of course, Dimitri Payet has also done very well, but he is almost 30 years old. Griezmann, as well as Pogba, represent the future."
If Desailly and Makelele have it their way, France's future will start tomorrow morning, at the Stade de France.
- Claude Makelele and Marcel Desailly were speaking at Carlsberg's Play On Pitch final event, probably the best prize in the world. See more than http://Carlsberg.football4 REASONS FRANCE WILL FLOURISH
4 REASONS FRANCE WILL FLOURISH
- Claude Makelele says France finally have a United team. They have learned from past mistakes of in-fighting and are now fighting as one.
- Marcel Desailly says the class of 2016 is better than the team which won Euro 2000, which he was a part of.
- Portugal have shown inconsistent form and France can capitalise on that.
- Desailly believes that France forward Antoine Griezmann will upstage Cristiano Ronaldo and prove to be the difference in the final.
Pepe back in training
Portugal received a timely boost yesterday when central defender Pepe trained with his teammates and appeared to be free of any injury problems.
The Brazilian-born defender missed the semi-final win over Wales on Wednesday because of a thigh injury and had trained separately on Friday.
But Pepe, 33, took a full part in yesterday's exercises which were witnessed by reporters during the 15 minutes in which training was open to the media and he appeared to be ready to face hosts France in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) final.
The Portuguese football federation did not comment on his condition. - Reuters.