France blows chance to rescue Euro 2016

Portugal didn't win a game in the group stage of Euro 2016 and led only once in seven games after 90 minutes and for all of 73 of the 720 minutes it played. It lost its best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, in the first half of the final.

Improbably, it won its first European Championship with a 1-0 victory over host France in the final on Eder's overtime goal.

As the game went on after Cristiano Ronaldo was stretchered off in the 25th minute, Portugal grew in strength, and its excellent keeper, Rui Patricio, never looked like he would be beaten even if France had a 17-6 edge in shots.

Portugal's first serious chances didn't come until the 80th minute when keeper Hugo Lloris had to make a double save on Nani and Ricardo Quaresma, Ronaldo's replacement, but after it survived Andre-Pierre Gignac's shot off the post in stoppage time, it created the best chances in overtime.

Raphael Guerreiro, who was born and raised and has played all his soccer in France, hit the crossbar in the 108th minute and Eder won the game a minute later.

The European Championship has never been known as a goalfest -- only twice in the 10 times it's been organized as a full-blown tournament has it averaged as many as 2.5 goals a game -- but the average of 2.12 goals per game -- the lowest in 20 years -- was all the more dreadful because it covered 20 more games to accommodate the expanded field of 24 teams.

Four of the five first-time finalists at Euro 2016 made the knockout stage, and Iceland and Wales won fans around the world. But they were ultimately put in their place by France and Portugal, respectively.

If anyone could rescue Euro 2016, it was the hosts, but they blew it. Winners in 1984 and again in 2000, the Bleus had the chance to again be European champions 16 years ago.

"We must not throw everything that we've done away," said France coach Didier Deschamps, "but we threw away a great chance to be European champions -- not the only one, but a great one."

No team had more talent than the French, but they will be remembered as underachievers, even after winning five games, tying Switzerland in a game they didn't need to win and losing to Portugal in overtime of their seventh and final game. France trailed -- 65 minutes -- less than Portugal led at Euro 2016 but it failed in joining Germany and Spain as the only three-time European champions.

With the exception of Moussa Sissoko whom English fans could hardly recognize from his play for relegated Newcastle United, no French player played above himself in the final.

All the French stars disappointed, beginning with Paul Pogba, who was the tournament's major bust. Dimitri Payet scored in France's first two games and added a third goal against Iceland but was quickly subbed in the second half against Portugal for Bayern Munich starlet Kingsley Coman, who was dangerous for 15 minutes, then faded.

Antoine Griezmann, the tournament's top scorer with six goals, lost his magic touch in the final. Rui Patricio stopped him in the first half but when Coman set up on a platter in the 66th minute Griezmann couldn't put his header on target.

France never looked like it was going to score in overtime and cracked when central defenders Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti, who had shut down Germany in the semifinals, were beaten badly on Eder's on goal.

What could have France don't differently? From the team that started the started the tournament, Deschamps made only two changes for the final, replacing Adil Rami with Umtiti and N'Golo Kante with Sissoko after both were suspended for the Iceland game.

France could have used Kante, a holding midfielder, against Portugal so Blaise Matuidi and Pogba could have moved forward, but who would have Deschamps taken out of the lineup if not Sissoko, who was France's best player after Griezmann in the semifinal against Germany?

Deschamps was all set to bring on Kante as his third sub in the second overtime when Eder put Portugal ahead. We'll never know what Kante could have added to the French attack. After Eder scored, Deschamps replaced Sissoko with Anthony Martial, who added nothing in the final 11 minutes.

8 comments about "France blows chance to rescue Euro 2016".
  1. ROBERT BOND, July 11, 2016 at 9:21 a.m.

    DFB had more talent, but Loew chose to go with the old guard instead of Sane' & Schweigel.......hope Bastian & Sammy call it quits next month when the real tourney kicks off.....

  2. beautiful game, July 11, 2016 at 11:28 a.m.

    Pogba and Payet disappeared and a lax moment in the Les Bleus defense decided the outcome.

  3. Joseph Pratt, July 11, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

    Pogba was distinctly unimpressive. Mostly he passed the ball back, and seemed to spend a lot of time complaining and gesturing to his teammates. His body language and attitude were terrible, and he did nothing dangerous. I hope ManU rethinks its interest in him, he will be a disappointment.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, July 11, 2016 at 12:03 p.m.

    Disagree - he's one of the best midfielders in the world. He didn't have the best tournament although he did have a moment of magic for France's second against Germany. I thought Kante should have played instead of Matuidi. This would have freed Pogba to get forward more often. As it was, he spent most of the game yesterday in front of the back four, which is not his best role.

  5. Ric Fonseca, July 11, 2016 at 2:49 p.m.

    Primary responsibilities for a coach in any sport: Gather the best players possible; plan accordingly keeping in mind that it is duly important and the objective to score goals on the opponent, and conversely to defend from being scored upon. Cynically simple. Now would many folks complain about a 1-1 baseball score? No baseball scores cannot end in a tie, same for fb, bb, and hockey. What was demonstrated during Eurocup was the basic tenets of a coach applying his game strategy. End of story.

  6. John Soares, July 11, 2016 at 11:51 p.m.

    So, if France wins they save the EURO. But Portugal with the best European player wins and somehow that's a disaster.... such bull! The winner is the team that outscores the other. everything else is forgotten in one week.
    France was far better on paper, too bad the game was played on grass with people.

  7. charles davenport replied, July 12, 2016 at 10:01 p.m.

    Strange premise, indeed

  8. David Mont, July 12, 2016 at 11:34 a.m.

    Not sure I understand the premise of the article. Save from what? How would a France win would've "saved" the tournament and made the tournament better?

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