Unlikely Heroes Have Made Their Mark for Portugal and France…

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Portugal’s Nani, center, celebrated with teammates after their defeat of Wales. Portugal Manager Fernando Santos has called Nani his big game performer. He has scored three key goals in Euro 2016.

Credit Petr David Josek/Associated Press

LONDON — France is one game away from completing a remarkable history of winning major soccer tournaments held on its soil. Portugal is the same game away from capturing its first major trophy.

Something has to give at the Stade de France, north of Paris, on Sunday evening. And given the way that this tournament has unfolded — given the glorious unpredictability with which Iceland and Wales have shown that any eleven can win on any given day — it would be foolish to try to second-guess the outcome.

France has the huge presence of Paul Pogba, who is about to transfer for a world record fee to either Manchester United or Real Madrid. And it has the irrepressible Antoine Griezmann, goal poacher supreme.

Portugal will feel that Cristiano Ronaldo’s time for success in the national jersey is nigh. And if not him, then perhaps Nani or the emerging Renato Sanches in midfield.

Maybe history and destiny have predetermined this thing. France, led by Michel Platini, won the 1984 European Championship in Paris, and won the 1998 World Cup when Zinedine Zidane was the star. And France has now enjoyed the sweet taste of karma because of Griezmann’s goals that in some way avenged a bitter 1982 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany in Seville, Spain.

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