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Portugal set to be EURO 2016's other home side

"There's a saying that Paris is Portugal's second city," one supporter told EURO2016.com; team reporter Joseph Walker meets the French-native fans who are making Portugal feel 'em casa'.

Cristiano Ronaldo salutes the Franco-Portuguese fans at Portugal's training base
Cristiano Ronaldo salutes the Franco-Portuguese fans at Portugal's training base ©AFP/Getty Images

"There's a saying that Paris is Portugal's second city," laughs Gabriel dos Santos, a 20-something Frenchman who, like so many fans at Portugal's open training sessions, proudly identifies himself as Portuguese-French. 

"The capital is Lisbon, then Paris. There might be 11 million people in Portugal but everywhere, and in France in particular, there's many, many more."

France is home to the world's largest Portuguese expatriate community, with well over a million people self-identifying as being of Portuguese extraction, the majority of them based in the Paris area. When Portugal meet Austria at Parc des Princes on 18 June, that is sure to create an electric atmosphere.

Three of Fernando Santos's squad – Raphaël Guerreiro, Anthony Lopes and Adrien Silva – were born in the UEFA EURO 2016 host nation and Lopes yesterday said he hopes the expat community here "will ensure we are the best-supported side after France".

After a rousing reception at Orly Airport on Thursday, A Seleçao were whisked off to their training base in Marcoussis, 30km south of the capital. There, around 2,000 fans clad in Portugal, Benfica, Porto and Sporting shirts packed into the French Rugby Federation (FFR) headquarters to catch a glimpse of their heroes.

"I was born in France to Portuguese parents, so I have two hearts," Dos Santos said as chants of "Portugal! Portugal!" rang out from the stands. "It's like playing 'em casa' (at home) for the team. I remember the Portugal v France game at the Stade de France in 2014 and it seemed that there were more Portuguese fans than French ones."

However, while young and old cheered Portugal on, almost all the chat is in French; the children wearing 'vermelho e verde' (green and red) face paint are chanting "Allez Portugal!" in their native language, not Portuguese.

"Lots of people consider themselves Portuguese even though they were born in France, have French passports and only speak French, like me," Paris-born Susette Simões tells EURO2016.com. "The Portuguese community here integrates well into society, there’s a great vibe," adds Phillipe Moreira, who says he has raised his children as he was: "With two cultures."

That might create something of a conflict of interest in the event of Portugal meeting France at the finals. "If Portugal play France, we'll end up crying because one of the sides will be on the end of a defeat!" Simões conceded. "It will be hard, we want both teams to win and do well." Moreira concurs: "I have a divided heart. It's difficult. I'm supporting Portugal but also France."

Dos Santos, meanwhile, hopes that the teams are on a collision course: "I want a Portugal – France final. France won in 1984, in 2000, whereas Portugal has never won so it's their turn!”