Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) acknowledges the spectators flanked by Portugal’s midfielder Joao Moutinho (L) and Portugal’s forward Eder at the end of the Euro 2016 group F football match between Portugal and Austria at the Parc des Princes in Paris on June 18, 2016.
The 31-year-old Portugal captain has the chance to win the first international title of his glittering career when his side take on the tournament hosts at Stade de France
Ronaldo is now the joint highest scorer in European Championship history with nine goals, and holds the record for most headed goals with five.
Ronaldo helped Portugal reach the final when they hosted Euro 2004, but was left crying on the pitch after defeat by Greece, and they have not reached this stage of a major tournament since.
“He was only 19 then, so just a kid,” added Ferdinand, who played alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009 and is working in France as a BBC pundit.
Accordly to BBC sport, “I remember his reaction but I think he was a bit too young to take it all in. At that age, you expect you will get back to another final soon to rectify what happened but he has had to wait 12 years for his chance.
“Cristiano has produced great performances for Portugal when it matters before, for example his hat-trick against Sweden in the play-off for the 2014 World Cup.
“So France will know that it is not just in a Real Madrid or Manchester United shirt that he is capable of great things, especially because it was his moment of brilliance that helped decide Portugal’s semi-final against Wales.”
Portugal’s master tactician Fernando Santos needs to cut supply lines to a player whom the French call “Monsieur Griezmann” as a sign of respect — despite his boyish looks.
While Portugal saw off Wales, the Welsh playmaker Gareth Bale was still given enough space to create chances and were outdone more by the absence of midfield creativity than by Portuguese prowess.
That will not be the case for France who have a larger arsenal. Even if Portugal can snuff out Griezmann, Dmitiri Payet, the stand-out performer in the earlier rounds, can change a game in seconds.
Front man Olivier Giroud has also proved a handful by weighing on defences and making space for those around him.
What has worked for Portugal has been an incredible team spirit with a mantra that they are not playing to look pretty, but to win, irrespective of style.
Santos has fashioned a well-drilled 4-4-2 and kept to it throughout despite injuries. The loss of Pepe at the back was hardly noticeable against Wales with Bruno Alves stepping in admirably.
From France’s match with Germany, Santos will have noted that Didier Deschamps’ team has a weakness on its flanks, in particular on the left with Patrice Evra.
Portugal’s full backs Raphael Guerreiro and Cedric Soares are good enough to replicate that, which could push Deschamps to move away from the more attacking 4-2-3-1 formation to revert to a 4-3-3, restoring defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante.
But whether the Portuguese midfield has the capacity of a Bastian Schweinsteiger or Toni Kroos to stifle France is questionable.
Danilo, who replaced William Carvalho against Wales, was strong and efficient in the holding midfield role, but has limits going forward.
Joao Mario and Adrien Silva do not appear to have the killer pass for Ronaldo or strike partner Nani. That may open the door for playmaker Joao Moutinho to return.
Sunday offers Ronaldo the opportunity for personal glory too, with the chance to get one over Lionel Messi in the battle to be viewed as the best player in the world.
Messi has never won a major tournament for Argentina and announced his international retirement last month after they lost to Chile in the final of the Copa America.
“If Ronaldo wins the European Championship, it will be massive for him,” said Ferdinand, 37.
“I don’t think it will give him the edge over Messi in terms of who deserves the accolade of the best in the world, but it is a huge achievement.
“And it will matter to both of them, because there is a definite battle between them in their own minds about who has done what for club and country.
“It is far from a given that Ronaldo will manage it, of course. France are looking very good and they have a game-changer in Antoine Griezmann.
“Even if Ronaldo is at his best, it is a difficult ask for them and I think they are going to have to play ugly, like they have done all the way through the tournament, to win.
“I have known him a long time and I would love to see him do it, but it is awkward for me because I have friends in both camps – Nani and Cristiano for Portugal, and Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra for France.
Source BBC SPORT