Euro 2016 final: Will Ronaldo or Griezmann prevail in battle of the No.7s?

Euro 2016 final: Will Ronaldo or Griezmann prevail in battle of the No.7s?
Antoine Griezmann’s stunning performances in the number seven shirt for France at Euro 2016 have helped drive his team to the final. But will it be the Frenchman or Portugal’s very own number seven star, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has the last word on Sunday?

Griezmann’s double in the semi-final against Germany on Thursday – a penalty and a poked finish from close range – sent the host-nation on its way to the Stade de France for the final against Portugal.

While Portugal captain Ronaldo has been setting the world alight for the best part of a decade, it’s 25-year-old Griezmann who has dominated so far at Euro 2016.

The French attacking midfielder-turned-striker is the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals as well as two assists – compared to Ronaldo’s return of three strikes and three assists.

There is a sense that, going into Sunday’s final, there has been a changing of the guard at the top of European football.

Ronaldo's three Ballon d'Or titles for world player of the year are testament to the success he has had.

But, at 31, his powers are inevitably starting to wane, and Euro 2016 may be the first signs of that.

The Portugal captain has surpassed a number of landmarks at the tournament – the first person to score at four European Championships, his country’s record appearance-holder, the highest number of appearances at Euros – but he has cut a frustrated figure at times.

He put in a two-goal performance in the 3-3 draw with Hungary in the group stage, as well as a stunning leap to open the scoring against Wales in the semi-final, but at times he has been isolated and on the fringes of games.

READ MORE: Portugal beats Wales 2-0 to reach Euro 2016 final

His actions away from the matches may be a sign of his sense of frustration – the criticism of Iceland as having a “small mentality” after their 1-1 draw; hurling a reporter’s microphone into a lake after being asked a seemingly innocuous question.

Contrast this with Griezmann, who, at 25, is hitting his peak and seems to be enjoying life at Euro 2016.

Six goals and some stellar performances have led to widespread acclaim, and mean he is frontrunner for the golden boot and is many people's player of the tournament.

He has also won plaudits off the pitch for giving the matchball from the win over Ireland to the son of a murdered French police officer.


Club-level rivalry

Adding to the spice of Sunday’s game is the club-level rivalry between the pair.

Ronaldo famously wears the white of Real Madrid, where he is the club’s talisman and record scorer with 364 goals.

Griezmann has played for Atletico Madrid since 2014, where he has netted 57 goals in 107 games.

The last time the pair faced each other was in May’s UEFA Champions League Final, which Real won 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in which Griezmann missed a spot-kick during regular time.

READ MORE: Real Madrid wins Champions League after beating Atletico on penalties

Ronaldo scored the winning penalty in the shootout that day, and he is far and away ahead of the Frenchman in terms of club honors, having claimed three Champions League titles among various domestic honors in Spain and England. 

Griezmann is yet to land a major trophy, but went some way towards laying the ghost of the Champions League defeat to rest with his penalty against Germany in the semi-final. He will now be relishing the chance of his first honor coming at a home tournament.    

Ronaldo, though, will be desperate to win a first title at international level - something he is yet to do in his illustrious career despite having previously appeared at six major tournament finals with Portugal, stretching back to Euro 2004.

The Portugal captain knows that Sunday may be his last chance to achieve this. 

To focus on the Ronaldo-Griezmann duel is, of course, to do injustice to the other array of talents that will be on display on Sunday, such as France’s Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet, and Portugal’s teenage prodigy Renato Sanches. But the clash between the two number sevens will certainly be an intriguing subplot to events in Saint-Denis.