Euro 2016 final: 5 France players to watch
France's Paul Pogba celebrates after the Euro 2016 semifinal soccer match between Germany and France, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Thursday, July 7, 2016. France won the match 2-0. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)PARIS (AP) — A look at five members of the France team ahead of Sunday's European Championship final against Portugal:
This is Lloris' fourth major tournament as France's No. 1. The captain demonstrated just how important he is to the title bid late in Thursday's 2-0 semifinal win over Germany, preserving the clean sheet with a fine reflex save to deny Joshua Kimmich. Often acting as the sweeper by rushing off his line to thwart attacks early, the Tottenham goalkeeper can be vulnerable at crosses.
Lloris' leadership off the field has shined in the past year, thoughtfully and eloquently addressing a traumatized nation following the Paris attacks in November. He also addressed the healing potential of soccer in his final media appearance before the final.
Often deployed in a deeper role for his dynamic tackling, Pogba has also exhibited his passing range to unlock defenses. However, what France doesn't get from Pogba are goals at the end of his burst through defenses. He's only netted six times in 37 internationals, with his solitary strike at Euro 2016 coming against unheralded Iceland.
Sunday's final could be Pogba's last game before a big-money move from Juventus, with the midfielder having been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Despite fading in the semifinals, Payet's elegancy and efficiency on the ball has been an essential component of France's bid for a first trophy since Euro 2000. It's taken until late in his career for the 29-year-old Payet to become a France regular, having taken six years to reach 25 appearances.
The electrifying midfielder's spectacular goals for West Ham last season secured him a place at Euro 2016 and he delivered with essential goals in the opening two games to ensure the hosts made a perfect start.
With 10 goals in 12 games, Giroud has established himself as a real striking force for France. And yet he continues to divide opinion among fans — both with club side Arsenal and on international duty.
Even scoring in a Euro 2016 warmup game didn't prevent him being jeered by French fans that night. It's the tendency to waste good scoring opportunities, rather than being appreciated for his link-up play, that leaves the 29-year-old Giroud constantly on an uphill mission to prove his quality.
Small for a striker — at 1.76 meters (5-foot-9) — Griezmann is making a big impact at his home tournament, both in the air and on the ground. The Atletico Madrid striker is the undoubted star of the championship so far and seems destined to take home the Golden Boot as top scorer.
Griezmann has scored six goals in six games — double the tally of teammates Giroud and Dimitri Payet, as well as Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Now the French are appreciating Griezmann's quality in France - unlike his teenage years, when he was rejected by several clubs and went to Spain to make it as a professional.