Paris, July 9 (IANS) Hosts France head coach Didier Deschamps on Saturday stressed the need to limit Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence in Sunday’s Euro football championship final.
“If there is an anti-Ronaldo plan, like a recipe, no one has yet found,” Xinhua quoted Deschamps as saying at the pre-final press conference at the Stade de France.
“Ronaldo is a great player with outstanding athleticism, footwork and aerial play. We must be careful and limit his influence,” Deschamps added.
France defender Bacary Sagna, who also attended the press conference, said, “I do not need to praise Cristiano (Ronaldo), as everyone knows him. He is among the best in the world, if not the best.
“I will try to defend as on anyone, leaving less space for him. He is an outstanding player, but I have to play in front of good players every day.”
Evaluating the opponents, Deschamps said, “Portugal is a team that has experience and is well organised. It can change its game system compared to different opponents.
“It has a solid defence with Pepe and William Carvalho. It also relies heavily on the Nani-Ronaldo duo. It can project the offensive quickly in the defensive phase and control the ball well.”
On his side’s defence, Deschamps spoke highly of two defenders — Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti.
“Koscielny has always been there. Although he did not play every game of the last World Cup, he has gained experience. It is a continuation of the season with Arsenal with great regularity,” Deschamps said.
“I’m not surprised by Samuel Umtiti, compared to what he does. I have not assumed. Otherwise, I would have made a different choice for the quarter-final and the semi-final. I trust him,” he noted.
On his side’s attacking, Deschamps hailed the brilliant performance of Antoine Griezmann, who has scored six goals to be the top favourite for the Golden Boot.
“In the 4-2-3-1 formation, Griezmann is in a position that he often occupies in Atletico Madrid. He is crucial and important to us, not only with goals but also the organisation,” he said.
Deschamps also emphasised the focus on the game itself, saying, “It’s a special moment, and a unique opportunity. There is a title at the end. But do not change what we used to do. The ideal is to get as relaxed as possible but remain very focused on this game.”
France keeper Hugo Lloris termed the final as an “escape” for France.
“Obviously, we had a difficult time this year, whether by this dramatic event or non-sport stories. Having answered this field gives us a little more pride,” the French captain said.
“All the French public is behind us. We started the campaign with a lot of criticism and desire, and we want to finish it with the best fashion.”
France have not won, or even got into a major tournament’s semi-finals, since they claimed the Euro 2000 title. Portugal have never won any.