Saturday, 9 July 2016

Portugal seek revenge for past agony against France

For Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal the Euro 2016 final on Sunday 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, Les Bleus 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 in Marseille. Penalties beckoned at the Stade Velodrome when Michel Platini appeared to score a 119th-minute winner to send France through to a final 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 French newspaper 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 the Selecao 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 of the mood in the dressing room after the game. “It was difficult because it was the end. And yet we were ‘programmed’ to win. I am sure that if we had reached the final we would have won it.”