Griezmann “Yes”, Ronaldo “No” and the Muddled Midfield of the FanXT DFS Euro Final

For competitive tournament soccer, France has always been the host with the most.

Two tournaments on its soil have resulted in two wild celebrations from Paris to Calais, stirring renditions of La Marseillaise ringing out through the countryside. They have made legends among the national team, among them Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane and even current coach Didier Deschamps, who is now trying to guide Les Bleus to a title after winning a World Cup and European Championship as midfielder and captain during their halcyon days.

In their way is Portugal, a team with no titles in its history and a squad which enters Stade de France a distinct underdog. It is the first final for A Seleccao since 2004, when they were undone at home by another underdog in Greece. Portugal knows all about the hurt of losing on home soil and would love nothing more than to inflict such misery on France.

France, though, has won all three competitive matches between the teams, most recently a 1-0 victory in the 2006 World Cup semifinals on Zidane’s first-half penalty. Les Bleus have prevailed twice in European Championship contests _ both in extra time in the semifinals when France served as host country.

Platini’s goal in the 119th minute provided the winning margin in a 3-2 triumph in 1984, with the teams combining for three goals in those 30 extra minutes. Zidane again broke Portuguese hearts in 2000, converting from the spot in the 117th minute for a golden goal in France’s 2-1 win.

This time around, France has another burgeoning hero in Antoine Griezmann, who is all but certain to win the tournament’s Golden Boot as top scorer. The Atletico Madrid man enters the final with six goals, including both in Les Bleus’ 2-0 semifinal win over Germany. Three of them have been match-winners, and he is part of a ruthlessly efficient attacking group that has bagged a tournament-best 13 goals.

This final could also be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final chance at an international title, something Portugal is desperate to attain. The Real Madrid superstar has been equal parts scorer and playmaker with three goals and three assists, but getting A Seleccao to this point has also been a team effort. Nani also has three goals and teenager Renato Sanches appears ready to accept the torch from Ronaldo as Portugal’s next star whenever he chooses to pass it along.

But for the FanXT DFS contest, creating a lineup poses a challenge for many reasons. The first is home-field advantage. France has an excellent track record of winning titles as the host country _ winning the 1984 and 1998 World Cup. The supporters of Les Bleus will turn Stade de France in Saint-Denis into a cauldron similar to the 1998 final in which the hosts overran Brazil 3-0.

The second comes with Ronaldo’s $13,880 price tag. Selecting him means sacrificing almost every French scoring option and using central defenders Pepe and Jose Fonte instead of wide backs Cedric Soares and Raphael Guerreiro to create cap space. Every superstar comes with a price, but given what Portugal faces in terms of adversity, it may be too steep a cost.

The third is caused by France’s midfield, or more succinctly, its lack of attacking options beyond the pricey Paul Pogba ($11,060). Since teammates Griezmann, Dimitri Payet and Olivier Giroud are all considered forwards, there’s a gap since Moussa Sissoko and Blaise Matuidi are primarily holding midfielders who sit in front of the back four and turn the ball over to Pogba to cycle the offense. That’s why this lineup features nearly all Portuguese midfielders and both Frenchmen at the forwards.

This lineup is for the European Championship game to be played Sunday June 10, using a 4-4-2 formation and $90,000 salary cap as part of FanXT’s DFS contest.

Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris, France ($8,380). He’s not the flashiest of goalkeepers, but Tottenham’s No. 1 has answered the call repeatedly in getting Les Bleus to the final. Lloris had two big saves to keep Germany at bay in the semifinals, and aside from the two meaningless goals allowed to Iceland in the quarterfinals, he has yet to concede a goal in the run of play.

Defenders: Patrice Evra ($7,130) and Bacary Sagna ($7,440), France. While central defenders are technically better goal-scoring options since they sometimes push forward on set pieces for headers, wide backs have been the preference of these lineups because they get more touches and have more chances to rack up points with assists. Les Bleus should enjoy the majority of possession in this match, which means Evra and Sagna should be getting forward, though Sagna less so since Ronaldo will open on his side.

Cedric Soares ($7,690) and Rapahel Guerreiro ($7,470). The same philosophy in selecting Evra and Sagna goes into taking A Seleccao’s outside pair, and Guerreiro had an assist on Ronaldo’s goal in the semifinal victory over Wales.

Midfielders: Nani, Portugal ($8,000). A fixture in this space’s lineup since the get-go, the Fenerbahce-turned-Valencia winger has been one of the best dollar-for-dollar players in this tournament and has matched Ronaldo’s three-goal haul with three of his own in France. He netted Portugal’s other goal against Wales by re-directing Ronaldo’s shot and has put four of his seven shots on target in the last two rounds.

Renato Sanches, Portugal ($7,630). The Bayern Munich starlet didn’t appear overwhelmed by the moment in the semifinals, though he did not impose himself on the match as much as he did in Portugal’s quarterfinal shootout win over Poland. Sanches is going to have to run his socks off given the quality of France’s midfield, but he may be able to cause some problems in the middle that free up Ronaldo and Nani for scoring chances.

Ricardo Quaresma, Portugal ($7,250). This is a hedge pick more than a cap-friendly pick, though that helps too. The supersub of A Seleccao, Quaresma brings a different dimension to Portugal’s offense when he’s in the match and he finds a way to get a substantial amount of touches in his limited minutes. While he only played four minutes against Wales, expect coach Fernando Santos to call upon him earlier, most likely by necessity.

Blaise Matuidi, France ($8,880). While Matuidi doesn’t carry the ball much in the attack, the PSG midfielder is the more likely of the two between him and Sissoko to get a scoring chance. If you have confidence in Portugal’s midfield getting forward against France, Joao Mario ($7,750) is a lower-cost option who will try to create opportunities.

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann, France ($10,750). His star turn in this tournament has likely made him a Ballon d’Or finalist, and the speedy Griezmann appears poised to put his name in the pantheon of French football heroes. His missed penalty in the Champions League final against Ronaldo and Real Madrid resulted in a more industrious player if that was possible given his season at Atletico, and his conversion from the spot against Germany cast away those demons. Griezmann is a versatile goal-scorer, they come in all shapes and sizes, and with Giroud likely to clash with Pepe in the center of the final third, that means Griezmann should be causing trouble by running at defenders with the ball.

Dimitri Payet, France ($8,440). The West Ham striker had a solid but subdued game against Germany and was lifted after 71 minutes in favor of N’Golo Kante as coach Didier Deschamps opted to consolidate the midfield. Payet has been a high-quality player throughout this tournament, and an effort similar to France’s tournament-opening victory over Romania would surprise absolutely no one. He’s still a lethal option on free kicks for Les Bleus and is still a premier playmaker _ he’s one of three players on Les Bleus with two assists.

Salary with Matuidi — $89,060 ($940 left)

Salary with Joao Mario — $87,930 ($2,070 left)

By Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73 on Twitter)

Contributing Writer