Heat, high security ahead of Euro 2016 final

Saint-Denis (France) (AFP) – Supporters of hosts France and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal sought shade as they were met by baking temperatures and high security upon arriving at Stade de France for Sunday’s Euro 2016 final.

With the mercury hitting 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, fans arriving early at the ground gathered together in the shadows of walls and buildings as they waited to be granted entry.

“It’s too hot!” a young, female steward wearing a flourescent orange bib told AFP as she scanned the accreditation badges of people approaching the ground. “I need to find some shade!”

Eight months on from the terror attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead — including one casualty outside Stade de France during France’s friendly with Germany — there was a heavy police presence near the stadium.

Black-clad officers from France’s CRS riot squad, some holding rifles, moved among supporters exiting the metro station.

A line of white police vans stretched down the road, with groups of officers standing in their shade as they observed fans walking towards the ground.

“We can’t forget the sad event of November, but today you have to live with it,” said Benoit Richard, a 45-year-old France fan wearing a team jersey, who was attending the match with his son, Olan.

“You have it in the corner of your mind. But you have to move on and make the most of the event.”

The mood around the ground was calm.

Portugal fans draped in Portuguese flags and wearing red and green wigs posed for photographs with the stadium in the background.

There were occasional choruses of the French national anthem from France supporters, many of whom wore the team’s blue jersey.

The most popular names on the backs of their shirts were “Griezmann” and “Pogba” — the two stars of Didier Deschamps’s team — but other jerseys paid tribute to former greats such as “Zidane” and “Henry”.

Touts, some holding cardboard signs asking for tickets to buy or sell, whispered “Tickets? Tickets?” as fans passed them.

Reports said the most expensive tickets were changing hands for 2,000 euros ($2,200) on the black market.

France are seeking a fourth major tournament success and third on home soil after Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup.

But Portugal’s trophy cabinet is bereft of significant honours, the team having lost 1-0 to Greece as hosts of Euro 2004 in their only previous major final.

“Of course France will be playing at home so obviously they will be favourites,” said Joao Ribeiro, a Portugal fan from the ancient Portuguese university town of Coimbra.

“But still we have our chances and after 2004 I am really looking forward to the game.”

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