SAINT-DENIS (FRANCE) (AFP) – France coach Didier Deschamps urged his players to be constantly mindful of Cristiano Ronaldo in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final and insisted that the Ballon d’Or will be a battle between the Portugal captain and Lionel Messi.
Deschamps said he wanted France’s rising star Antoine Griezmann to be on the world player of the year list but he would have to wait to get the honour.
“Antoine is still a young player, even if he has had a very great season. Ronaldo has been at the summit for seven or eight years. There are two men in for the Ballon d’Or — its between him and Messi,” said the coach.
Deschamps accepts that Ronaldo is often unstoppable.
“If there’s an anti-Ronaldo plan, no-one’s found it,” Deschamps told a press conference at Stade de France on Saturday.
Ronaldo, 31, carries his country’s hopes of victory into the final, where Fernando Santos hopes to become the first coach to lead Portugal to a major title.
The Real Madrid megastar provided an illustration of his gifts with a majestic, soaring header in Portugal’s 2-0 semi-final win over Wales and Deschamps is wary of his aerial prowess.
“He’s a really great player with athletic quality, particularly in the air,” said the former France captain, who has a fully fit squad at his disposal.
“He really hangs in the air — those chocolate squares (abdominal muscles) don’t count for nothing.
“In football, the most difficult things to fight against are pace and aerial ability. It will be important to remain attentive and restrict his influence.”
Deschamps, 47, is bidding to win his first trophy as France manager, having previously led the country to glory as a player in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship.
Asked how he transmitted his winning mentality to his players, he said: “It’s the quality of the players, above all, and the team spirit. It’s my work with my staff.
“We’ve had two years of friendly matches (because France, as hosts, did not have to qualify). We didn’t win them all, but we did our best to preserve that team spirit.
“There’s nothing greater than winning and you have to do everything to get there. Football is not an exact science and it often comes down to the little things.
“But when you feel like you’ve given everything, you have no regrets.”