France and Portugal should be at full strength when the two teams meet in the final of Euro 2016 in Saint-Denis on Sunday. With the title at stake at the Stade de France, both managers will be happy to see that they have the choice of the entire squad when it comes to the most important game of them all.
The big fitness question coming into this final was if Portugal manager Fernando Santos would be able to call upon the services of Pepe, who missed the semifinal with a thigh injury. The Real Madrid centre-back, though, declared himself fit, while talking to reporters on Saturday, and considering the magnitude of this contest, Santos should not hesitate too much in naming the experienced defender in the Portugal starting XI.
"I'm all good," Pepe told reporters on Saturday. "Today I trained and I'm at the boss's disposal for tomorrow. It means so much to me to play a final for my country. We want to give joy to the Portuguese people. There will be 11 million behind the 11 on the pitch and the three subs too. We want to make history for Portuguese football.
"I hope to be able to help my side by playing and it would be nice to score."
While Pepe is expected to return to the back four – which means Bruno Alves will go back to the bench – Santos should also welcome William Carvalho back to the lineup, after the midfielder was a semifinal absentee through suspension. Danilo deputised in his absence, but Carvalho is expected to be named in the starting XI for the final.
The rest of the team should remain the same, with the onus on Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, yet again, to find the back of the net. The two players, not conventional centre-forwards, have done well as the front two in Euro 2016, scoring six goals between them, and the France defenders will be wary of the threat posed by the former Manchester United duo.
In that France defence, Samuel Umtiti should keep his place in the back four to play alongside Laurent Koscielny, after another impressive performance against Germany. France manager Didier Deschamps decided to keep Adil Rami and N'Golo Kante, who missed the quarterfinal through suspension, on the bench for the last four match against Germany, and with Umtiti and Moussa Sissoko putting in impressive shifts, expect Deschamps to go with the same starting XI that beat the world champions 2-0. That also means, Paul Pogba playing deeper, with Blaise Matuidi giving him company and acting as the screens for their defence.
It goes without saying that Antoine Griezmann will be the primary focus from a France perspective, having scored six goals in the tournament, and if the 25-year-old can continue to strike up a partnership with Olivier Giroud up front, while showing creativity with the outstanding Dimitri Payet, that Portugal defence, which has been so impressive in Euro 2016, could be in for a long night.
Confirmed starting XI: France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Samuel Umtiti, Patrice Evra; Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Moussa Sissoko, Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet; Olivier Giroud.
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho; Adrien Silva, Renato Sanches, Joao Mario; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo.