Euro 2016 finals: Talking tactics

July 09, 2016 11:56 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 01:12 pm IST

France and Portugal progressed from their respective semifinals with similar tactical principles: a relatively compact mid-block without the ball, flattening, when dropping deeper, into a 4-4-2; no pressing in the opposition half, except briefly on counters; attacking transitions with runs from a striker, two midfielders, and a full-back.

France needed a touch of fortune, for Germany outplayed it — the world champion’s 4-2-3-1 shape-shifted quickly into variants of the 4-3-3, with the 2-3-5 in the last phase really stretching the host. Portugal had far less trouble containing Wales.

Neither of Sunday’s finalists looked especially slick in possession; their ideas to build play, when the ball was forced on them, drew more from individual moments of quality than positional structure. But both took their chances well.

Fernando Santos is unlikely to tinker with his midfield-diamond-wide-strikers system. He’ll hope influential centre-back Pepe is fit to start. With William Carvalho likely to return to the base of midfield after suspension, Portugal could have its strongest eleven on the park for the tournament’s biggest match.

Despite the control the 4-3-3 offers against a midfield diamond, Didier Deshcamps will be tempted to stick with the 4-2-3-1 that has released Antoine Griezmann’s best.

It offers Portugal’s full-backs a little more space — and crosses to Cristiano Ronaldo in the box are the side’s staple in attack. But centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti were so good in the semfinal that Deshcamps will likely stay with the system that privileges his — and the tournament’s — best attacking player.

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