Euro 2016 final

Portugal aim to end pain against France

France national soccer team players arriving for a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines near Paris, France, on July 9.
France national soccer team players arriving for a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines near Paris, France, on July 9. PHOTO: EPA

While French sides have dominated for more than 40 years, Ronaldo wants new beginning

PARIS • For Portugal, the Euro 2016 final today offers a golden opportunity to end a miserable record in meetings with France.

As well as having home advantage and history on their side from wins in their last two major tournament finals on home soil, France can claim to be Portugal's bete noire.

France have won their last 10 meetings with the Portuguese since going down 2-0 in a friendly back in 1975, and their head-to-head record includes victories in all three clashes at major competitions.

The first of those came at the 1984 European Championship in France, when the hosts triumphed 3-2 after extra time in a dramatic semi-final.

  • Portugal v France: Major clashes

  • FRANCE 3 PORTUGAL 2 (AET) EURO 1984 SEMI-FINAL

    In the first competitive encounter between the teams, France progressed after high drama at Marseille's Stade Velodrome.

    Jean-Francois Domergue gave France a 25th-minute lead with a blistering free kick, only for Rui Jordao's looping 74th-minute header to send the game into extra time.

    The Angola-born striker struck again in the ninth minute of extra time with a deflected volley, only for Domergue to stab in an equaliser. Jean Tigana's jinking run teed up French talisman Michel Platini to slam home a 119th-minute winner and complete the comeback.

    FRANCE 2 PORTUGAL 1 (AET) EURO 2000 SEMI-FINAL

    Another last-four clash, another last-gasp winner by a French poster boy.

    Seeking to complete a world and European double, Roger Lemerre's France fell behind in Brussels when Nuno Gomes' snap-shot earned Portugal a 19th-minute lead.

    But Nicolas Anelka set up Thierry Henry for an equaliser in the 51st minute, sending the game to extra time.

    With penalties looming, Portugal right-back Abel Xavier blocked a goal-bound shot from Sylvain Wiltord with his hand and, after lengthy Portuguese protests, Zinedine Zidane swept in a golden goal penalty to seal their final passage.

    FRANCE 1 PORTUGAL 0 WORLD CUP 2006 SEMI-FINAL

    Zidane was on target again from the penalty spot six years later as France emerged victorious from the most prestigious game between the two sides before Euro 2016 to reach an ultimately ill-fated final.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Penalties beckoned at the Stade Velodrome when Michel Platini scored a 119th-minute winner to send France through against Spain, where they lifted the Henri Delaunay trophy for the first time.

"So much sadness, frustration and disappointment. Even today it is very painful to talk about that match," said Jaime Pacheco, who played for Portugal that night, in a recent interview with Le Parisien. "But, to be fair, France were better than us. They deserved to win the match and the Euro."

There was more agony for Portugal in the Euro 2000 semi-finals, when a great side featuring Luis Figo and Rui Costa led in Brussels before eventually losing 2-1.

Nuno Gomes put Portugal in front but Thierry Henry equalised for the world champions and Zinedine Zidane scored a golden goal winner from the penalty spot three minutes from the end of extra time.

Again France went on to win the continental crown while Portugal were left to rue the officials' decision to penalise Abel Xavier for a handball in the box as a shoot-out again loomed.

"I tried to calm the players, it was the first time an assistant referee had given a penalty," the Portugal coach that night, Humberto Coelho, told L'Equipe.

"It was difficult because it was the end. Yet we were 'programmed' to win. I am sure that, if we had reached the final, we would have won it."

More heartache followed in 2006, when the team that had stumbled at the final hurdle of Euro 2004 on home soil lost in the last four of the World Cup Finals.

Another Zidane penalty in the first half in Munich took the French through to a final they eventually lost in a shoot-out against Italy.

Ronaldo trudged off the field in tears that night. He has declared his wish to be crying tears of joy after today's final at the Stade de France.

And on Portugal's side is the fact that two other long-running hexes have been broken at the Euros.

Germany beat Italy for the first time in nine attempts at major tournaments, albeit on penalties in the quarter-finals.

France then beat the Germans in the semi-finals after high-profile defeats in their last three competitive encounters.

"They are playing at home and are entitled to believe they can win. It had been a long time since they had beaten Germany and they did it," said Portugal midfielder Joao Mario on Friday. "We are aware of our past defeats, but that can give us extra strength and motivation."

France also beat Portugal,who have veteran defender Pepe fully fit, in a friendly in Lisbon as recently as last September and won 2-1 with goals from Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba in a friendly at the Stade de France in October 2014.

But Mario added: "Probability doesn't win matches. The French can believe in this, but 100 per cent of Portuguese also believe Portugal can win and that is what we are going to focus on."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Portugal aim to end pain against France'. Print Edition | Subscribe