Portugal vs. France: Euro 2016 final tale of the tape
The final of the 2016 European Championship is set, with Portugal and France out to battle for continental honours. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of how the teams will fare on the field on Sunday.
Portugal's Rui Patricio is a good, competent goalkeeper and his fine penalty shootout save to deny Jacob Blaszczykowski proved crucial in the quarterfinal against Poland. It's no surprise that Everton, flush with cash now, are reported to be interested in his services. But for all his strengths, he is not Hugo Lloris.
The French goalkeeper is indubitably one of the world's best now. It's not just that he's agile and brave, nor that he has the reactions of someone who cracked the Matrix some time ago; he does the less spectacular things well, too. He deals well with crosses, distributes well and exudes confidence.
VERDICT: Portugal have a good goalkeeper. France have a nearly perfect one.
It's no coincidence that Portugal have looked far more resilient since the introduction of Jose Fonte in the knockout stages. Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Bruno Alves are all established centre-backs, but all are approaching the end of their careers. Fonte is 32, so no spring chicken himself, but age has not yet wearied him. He's more mobile, aware and cautious than the others. And he needs to be. Right-back Cedric Soares' inexplicable switch-off against Poland which resulted in Robert Lewandowski's goal could have seen his team eliminated. Fonte's calming influence is needed more than ever.
What a month it's been for Samuel Umtiti. First he signs with Barcelona, then he breaks into the national team at just the right moment and ensures that no one at club or country has cause to regret their faith in him. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, who has been solid throughout the summer, they make a formidable pair. The only concern is the physical state of Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna on the flanks. So much depends on their ability to get up and down the wings. But neither of them are young and with so little recovery time after the semifinal, can they cope with the Portuguese threat?
VERDICT: Both defences are vulnerable, but you'd trust the French back line more. Just.
Renato Sanches is pivotal to this Portugal midfield. Whereas it looked slow and cumbersome in the early games, since his arrival it has looked dynamic and aggressive. Sanches can drive attacks forward, fearlessly running at players with the ball at his feet, but he also knows when to fall back into line and help defend. William Carvalho, suspended for the Wales game, will be important too, holding the back of the midfield together against those surging Paul Pogba runs.
And how Pogba can run. This has been a mixed tournament for the man tipped to soon be the most expensive in world football. He has not been a failure, as some have suggested, nor has he been consistent. But he can break any team, given the chance. Blaise Matuidi, on the other hand, has been excellent; mobile, intelligent and blessed with a well-rounded skill set that makes him good at everything. The biggest surprise has been Moussa Sissoko, miserable for Newcastle United in England but increasingly useful to France head coach Didier Deschamps. And then there's Dimitri Payet, the saviour in the group stage, but waning in the knockout rounds. Has he got anything left in the tank?
VERDICT: Portugal have improved, but France should dominate the middle.
What can you do about Cristiano Ronaldo? Not very much. If you hope to battle him on the ground, he's quick and brilliant. If you hope to battle him in the air, he's strong, brave and quite possibly in possession of anti-gravity boots. You can try to frustrate him by tripping, clipping and elbowing him, but that just makes him angry, and you won't like him when he's angry. And, of course, if you double-team him, you leave room for Nani. On his best days, Nani is half the player that Ronaldo is, but half a Ronaldo is still more than enough to turn a game. Nani is quick and, when he doesn't overthink things, he can be deadly. Portugal have their weaknesses, but not in this department.
Poor old Olivier Giroud. A target man in more ways than one -- both for crosses into the box and howls of abuse whenever anything goes wrong. He is not in the class of Ronaldo or even in the class of his sidelined compatriot Karim Benzema. But he does have his uses. If he wins the ball in the air, he can release the whippet-like Antoine Griezmann. Theirs is the old-fashioned but highly effective "big man, little man" partnership, and it's been enough to take them to the final. Whether it will be enough to win the European Championship remains to be seen.
VERDICT: Ronaldo is the trump card, but France certainly have goals in them.
Portugal boss Fernando Santos has had a good tournament, proving himself brave enough to make sweeping changes when necessary and communicating with honesty and integrity when he has to explain them. He knows the weaknesses of this team and he has learned how to hide them. Portugal haven't quite clicked this summer, but they've made it all the way to the final anyway.
Deschamps is another manager who has been forced to react in almost every game, discovering that his intricately laid plans don't work quite as well as his improvised ones. But he has held himself well throughout the tournament, rarely betraying the stress he must be under, praising his players where he can. He's nearly there.
VERDICT: A dead heat. Two good managers, doing their best with the resources available.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.