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Sagna and France looking to make history

FOCUSED: Sagna has impressed throughout the tournament

FOCUSED: Sagna has impressed throughout the tournament

Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala will have the chance to become European champions tonight when France face Portugal at the Stade de France.

Sagna has been an ever-present in his nation’s run to the EURO 2016 final and he is likely to play a key role again tonight against Portugal’s star man, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The right-back has drawn praise from a wide range of sources for his performances in his home country, maintaining his defensive standards while proving to be an important attacking threat for the tournament’s most potent team.

You could be forgiven for assuming that the presence of Ronaldo would force Sagna to adopt a more conservative approach for tonight’s match but the 33-year-old is not fazed by the Real Madrid superstar.

He said: “Ronaldo, we know him. He's one of the best players in the world - if not the best - and he has worked very hard to get there.

“He's an exceptional player and it won't be easy. What you have to do is keep a close eye on him all the time, stay close to him and make sure you don't allow him too much space.

“I'm used to playing against excellent players every weekend so no, I'm not afraid.”

In fact, Sagna believes that the Portugal defenders have a bigger worry as they come up against the star of the summer so far in Antoine Griezmann.

The Atletico Madrid forward has six goals to his name, including both in the 2-0 semi-final victory over Germany, and Sagna insists that he should now be thought of in the same prestigious category as his Portuguese counterpart.

“Antoine, to me, is right up there too, in the same league as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He made it the hard way and he deserves to be where he is,” he said.

It has been quite a different tournament for Mangala, who, other than the final few minutes of the quarter-final victory over Iceland, has had to watch it all from the bench.

The centre-back has found himself behind Adil Rami, Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti in Didier Deschamps’ pecking order but to be part of a championship winning squad on home soil could only be a positive experience for the 25-year-old.

Both sides are expected to have a full squad to pick from, with Pepe and William Carvalho back in contention for a starting place after missing Portugal’s semi-final victory over Wales due to injury and suspension respectively.

There will be English representation on the field too with Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg taking charge. It will complete a stellar few months for the County Durham man after he was in the middle for both the FA Cup and Champions League finals at the end of the club season.

For Sagna and Mangala though, it is an opportunity to make history. Ten years and one day since France’s last major tournament final, the two City stars could go down in folklore and prepare for the new era at their club in the best possible way with victory tonight.

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