Portugal defender Pepe has declared himself fit for the biggest game of his life against hosts France in the final of Euro 2016.
Pepe sat out this week’s 2-0 semi-final win over Wales in Lyon due to a thigh complaint but, after training on Saturday, he was happy to confirm his availability sat alongside head coach Fernando Santos at a pre-match news conference.
The 33-year-old collected his second Champions League title with Real Madrid in May but believes the chance to claim Portugal’s first major international honour outstrips anything he has experienced during a decorated career.
“Yes, it is the biggest game, because I am representing my people, my country,” he said. “We want to write our names down in history.
“And we believe that we can play well. We want to follow the gaffer’s orders and we hope to bring great joy to all the Portuguese players.
“Tomorrow we will have 11 million people, 11 players and three players to come on. Every one will want to write their name into the history of Portuguese football.”
Leading the charge for Portugal will be captain Cristiano Ronaldo, with much of the pre-match build-up focusing on the prospect of a personal duel between himself and France’s tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann.
Pepe knows all about Atletico Madrid star Griezmann but was reluctant to single out the man with six Euro 2016 goals to his name when discussing France’s threat.
“I think the French players all have great quality,” he said. “I’ve played against Griezmann several times in Spain. He’s not very tall but he’s very adept at figuring out where the ball will be.
“He’s a very important player in the French team. It is important not to focus on one player but to focus on France as a team.”
Similarly, Pepe does not see Sunday’s encounter as an opportunity for Griezmann to establish himself alongside Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi as a leading superstar of world football.
“As for the Ballon d’Or, I don’t think there is anything at stake,” he said.
“The most important thing is for Cristiano to be at the top of this game. He has proven over and over what he can do and he can do so again.”
Pepe added: “I’m privileged to be able to train with sometime who is an amazing person, Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Regardless of what the detractors may say he is still here, he is still playing for the team. He is very important for the Portuguese national team and is very important for football.
“When we think about France we have to think about the team. They are a very strong team and any one of them can score from one moment to another.”
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