Portugal is now set to play in Sunday's European Championship finale, marking their first finals appearance since 2004. Though yesterday was the first time the Portuguese won a match in 90 minutes in this year's competition, Portugal was always a good bet to make it out of the soft side of the bracket, especially after they eliminated Croatia in the second round. Though they are boring as hell, Portugal don't beat themselves and, in Cristiano Ronaldo, have a player capable of scoring and creating goals from nothing. In the extremely short international tournament format, that's enough to win trophies. That said, yesterday's game didn't exactly set the world alight:
Today, we'll hope for better fare as we turn to the strong side of the bracket that, in addition to today's opponents France and Germany, also featured notable powers Spain, Italy, and Iceland. Given the higher quality in both sides playing today, we should expect to see a better match, although international cup semifinal matches do tend to be fairly cagy, cautious games as a rule.
Here are three things to watch in today's game:
- France's back line is awful in the air and extremely vulnerable to set pieces. Buuuuuutttttt Germany is without their lone conventional center forward, Mario Gomez, who is out for the rest of the competition due to a hamstring injury. So it'll be on Thomas Muller, most likely, to lead the German line and try to trouble the shaky French defense.
- France could also be without striker Olivier Giroud, who has been in good form for them in this year's Euros. It will be interesting to see how Antoine Griezmann's role in the French attack changes based on Giroud's availability. He has struck up a great partnership with the Arsenal attacker over the competition playing as more of a wide attacker, but it wasn't that long ago that Griezmann was used as a central forward running at a defense featuring Jerome Boateng. Regardless of what happens with Giroud, keep an eye on Griezmann today.
- It will be interesting to see how Germany sets up. They shifted to a three-at-the-back system against Italy in the quarterfinals to counter Italy's tactical setup. One suspects that Joachim Lowe will not feel the same need to adapt to France manager Didier Deschamps that he did when facing Antonio Conte. Even so, it will be interesting to see how Germany tries to attack France.
And on to the links:
Spurs have been linked with French striker Alexandre Lacazette. But one major paper says Arsenal is ready to activate his £34m release clause. (The Telegraph)
Spurs target Vincent Janssen scored two goals in 25 minutes in AZ's friendly yesterday. (HITC)
Two Russian players are denying reports that they spent €250,000 on champagne at a lavish Monte Carlo party after their team's group stage exit from the European Championships. (The Guardian)
Your LOL rumor of the day: Newly promoted Middlesbrough is weighing a bid for Fenerbahce striker Robin van Persie. (ESPN FC)
Andi Thomas: On Watching Hal Robson-Kanu's Cruyff Turn 1000 Times (SBN)
Guys, I'm morally opposed to Pepe ever being this happy. Make it stop.