Euro 2016 final

Euro 2016: Les Bleus' new-found solidarity inspiring

ESCAPE VALVE: "The French people really needed to escape via this competition, and sport has this strength - to unite people." - HUGO LLORIS, France captain, on a country still recovering from the Paris terrorist attacks.
ESCAPE VALVE: "The French people really needed to escape via this competition, and sport has this strength - to unite people." - HUGO LLORIS, France captain, on a country still recovering from the Paris terrorist attacks.

France success validates their rebuilding effort but Deschamps is wary of the Ronaldo factor

PARIS • France want to write football "history" by winning the Euro 2016 final at home six years after a damaging player revolt, and also for the country still recovering from the Paris terrorist attacks, captain Hugo Lloris said yesterday.

With Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal also riding a wave of national fervour ahead of tonight's final at the Stade de France, the home team are suddenly national heroes after several years of scandal and disappointment.

Lloris told of the enormous effort made to lift the French team out of "crisis" and into contention for a potential title, and also the impact of the Nov 13 attacks last year which left 130 dead in Paris.

"We have come through a crisis in French football," the goalkeeper said. "We have climbed back up the slope, we have done it step by step.

"But building a great team takes a lot of time. With the Germans and the Spanish, success was not created overnight. You cannot buy experience.

 

"Tomorrow we have the chance to go into French football history, it is a unique time in a player's career."

France won the World Cup on home territory in 1998, when coach Didier Deschamps captained the side.

Deschamps was called upon to recreate the side in 2012 after the national team hit rock bottom with a player strike at the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa.

The suspension of star striker Karim Benzema this year over his link to an attempted sex-tape blackmail added to the troubles.

Defender Bacary Sagna said the 2010 revolt over a dispute between striker Nicolas Anelka and then-coach Raymond Domenech "was clearly a mistake" that had scarred the national side.

"We took French football to an all-time low, we showed a very bad image. It has taken a lot of effort, a lot of work to improve our reputation. Six years on, we are getting better," said Sagna.

Lloris told how France's run to the final had given the country "an escape" after the trauma of the terror attacks, which included suicide bombers trying to get into the national stadium as France played Germany in a friendly.

"Of course we've had some very difficult times this past year, both with those tragic events but also with events that have gone on off the field," he said. "The French people really needed to escape via this competition, and sport has this strength - to unite people."

France, with tournament-leading scorer Antoine Griezmann, start the game as favourites. They have never lost to Portugal in the finals of a major tournament.

But they have acknowledged the threat posed by three-time world player of the year Ronaldo.

"If there's an anti-Ronaldo plan, no one's found it," said Deschamps, who has a fully fit squad at his disposal, yesterday. "He's a really great player with athletic quality, particularly in the air.

"He really hangs in the air - those chocolate squares (abdominal muscles) don't count for nothing.

"In football, the most difficult things to fight against are pace and aerial ability. It will be important to remain attentive and restrict his influence."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Les Bleus' new-found solidarity inspiring'. Print Edition | Subscribe