There is nothing quite like a home humbling to stir a little vengeance and Portugal’s glorious hour in Paris still rankles with Didier Deschamps and his France players.
Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Digne have all picked at the scar of 2016 as the two sides prepare to meet again five years on.
‘A really bad day,’ said Digne. ‘Losing a final at home is the worst thing,’ said Griezmann. ‘If we were hungry, the disappointment adds more, it gives us the passion to go further on and win this tournament.’
Antoine Griezmann wants France to use the disappointment of Euro 2016 to fire them to glory
The defeat has already inspired a reaction. ‘This memory hurts,’ said Lloris, reminded of Eder’s goal in the Stade de France which clinched Portugal’s first major trophy.
‘The scenario was quite difficult for all the French people but that’s in the past, afterwards we won the World Cup and I think those two events are linked.’
The upset has sharpened the senses. France took four points from Portugal when the teams met in the UEFA Nations League last autumn, including a 1-0 win in Lisbon to send the holders out.
‘Contrary to 2016, when France thought they had us beat, that has not happened at all over the last two matches,’ said Portugal boss Fernando Santos.
Hugo Lloris believes France’s World Cup triumph is linked to their previous failure at Euro 2016
Few will underestimate his team this year. Portugal’s squad is arguably more talented, more naturally gifted, even if questions remain about their desire. The shifting dynamics only add to the appeal as the world and European champions prepare to collide again.
On one side, Cristiano Ronaldo, injured and reduced to being a cheerleader in 2016 final, bristling with ambition having already scored three in this tournament to move within two of the international goals record of 109 held by Ali Daei of Iran.
On the other, Kylian Mbappe, perhaps the most exciting prospect of the next generation who might inherit Ronaldo’s mantle as the best in Europe, and Karim Benzema, searching for his first goal since ending a five-year exile from international football.
The squads sparkle and the Puskas Arena will be packed to its 61,000 capacity again.
Kylian Mbappe looks set to take over Cristiano Ronaldo’s mantle as the best European player
France have the comfort of being safely through to the last 16. Four points from two games is enough to ensure they will at least be one of the best third-placed teams.
The winners from Group F will go to Bucharest, the runners-up to Wembley and yet it is hard to imagine Deschamps fretting about potential opponents.
‘The insurance of already qualifying gives us some kind of tranquillity,’ said the France boss. ‘But we won’t change our playing style. We owe it to ourselves and the French people to deliver the best possible result.’
Dropped points against Hungary and an injury to Ousmane Dembele, who has gone home, have done little to disturb the quiet confidence among the France fans found lingering in the shade of Budapest’s street cafes.
Ousmane Dembele has left the French squad after picking up an injury against Hungary
Daily temperatures are still up to 35°C (95°F) here. Santos, who has moved Portugal’s training sessions to early evening when it is cooler, complained it was too hot for him to even go out for a jog.
France’s players, who played at three o’clock on Saturday, have grumbled ever since about the stifling heat.
‘What’s positive is that this game is at nine o’clock,’ said Lloris. ‘It will be fresher and colder.’
Portugal can also progress if they avoid a heavy defeat and Hungary don’t win in Germany, but Saturday’s 4-2 defeat in Munich was a chastening experience for the holders.
Bruno Fernandes was criticised after a peripheral performance against Germany
Santos said after the game that his team were ‘sunk’ and it was like ‘a dream turning into a nightmare’. His gloom triggered alarm within the Portuguese media.
Criticism has swirled around Bruno Fernandes, who has been subdued, and Raphael Guerreiro, exposed against Germany but expected to continue because Nuno Mendes, the obvious alternative at left back, is not fit.
The mood has been more upbeat, however, since their return to Budapest, where they are training at the home of Vasas, one of Hungary’s famous old clubs.
‘We need to take it easy, take a breath and contextualise,’ smiled Pepe, the 38-year-old defender voted man of the match in the 2016 final. ‘If we win, we’ve made it through. Out of nine points, we will have achieved six in a very difficult group.
Portugal spluttered through the group without winning a game five years ago and they have the know-how of veterans such as Pepe, Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho in the ranks.
Pepe (left) says despite the defeat to Germany Portugal are still in a good position to qualify
‘This might not seem good enough but we’re doing OK.
‘It’s true, the last match wasn’t great. We were very sad but we did a complete analysis and have a chance to prove the naysayers wrong.
‘We want to show our worth. We have very good quality players and we all work together. That’s what led us to be the unexpected team in Europe.’
It is, after all, how you finish these tournaments that counts, not how you start them.
Portugal will rely on the experience of Ronaldo (left) Joao Moutinho (centre) and Pepe (right)
‘Other teams have players with far less experience so it will be worse for them,’ said Santos. ‘France have an amazing team. We have all heard of Mbappe, Griezmann and Benzema. They have midfielders like N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot.
‘I rate all of the starting XI very highly, but we are not worse than they are.
‘We have very good defensive players, very good midfielders and attacking players.
‘If we’re at our best then there’s no reason why we can’t beat them.’