In the backyard of France, the sans Ronaldo Portuguese squad marked their first ever European glory as they became the 10th different nation to win the Euro by beating the hosts 1-0 in extra time at Stade de France near Paris on Monday.
The stadium was stunned as Eder, who was subbed on for the Portuguese wonder kid Renato Sanches, drove home a stunner from 25 yards past Hugo Lloris in the 110th minute. Moments later the Portuguese battalion erupted with joy as tears trickled down the eyes of Cristiano Ronaldo feeling the dreamt trophy so near.
Portugal had lost 10 successive times to France; they hadn’t defeated them since 1975 but when they did so after 41 years, the moment was when it mattered the most. The odds were against them, they hadn’t exactly been an impressive unit all Euro but at the end, what weighed more was the fact that they won.
France are two-time Euro winners, both occasions being when they were hosts. It was France’s moment to recreate the history; they had never lost finals in Stade de France but now they have and to the lesser. It’s a bitter memory for the French; one that won’t be easy to forget.
Portugal had been a part of another final, the one when they were hosts in 2004. They had the odds favouring them then; they were the touted winners. But a shock had followed when they eventually lost the title to Greece. They carved a story on the same lines, only this time they are on the other side.
Ronaldo, three-time Ballon d’Or had it all in his books lest an international glory. He was in bitter tears when he had to leave the pitch in 25th minute after he got injured from an 8th minute hard challenge of Dimitri Payet. This European championship was his dream and it was close.
He tried continuing to play twice after getting treated on the sidelines but his legs couldn’t match his heart’s zeal and they gave up. He cried for a different reason then and tears trickled down his eyes echoing a contrasting emotion as the extra time whistle blew and Portugal won the final.
France had begun fairly bright with Payet and Antoine Griezmann finding spaces, Paul Pogba making those intricate movements and most of all, Moussa Sissoko was their bullish presence who Portugal found hard to contain.
Sissoko made himself big and strong and make some excellent runs which troubled the Portuguese defence greatly. Post Ronaldo’s substitution with Ricardo Quaresma, when Portugal had shifted their defending gear higher, Sissoko in the 34th minute broke through and drove a shot at the goal that was kept out by the strong hands of Rui Patricio.
In the 38th minute, Payet did some good work on the left to put the ball in the centre for Oliver Giroud but Portugal closed down well not allowing Giroud to get much on the header and it was caught safely by Patricio.
Though the match remained lackluster for the most part, France had their chances in the second half. In the 65th minute, after Payet was substituted by Kingsley Coman, Griezmann got an excellent chance to put France ahead as Coman gave him an excellent cross which he headed wide.
Again in the 72nd minute, Giroud happened to get close with the help of Coman but Patricio, yet again, stepped up keeping him out. Consistent French attacks forced Portugal to move up front stronger and they got their first shot on target in the 80th minute when Lloris pulled through two back to back saves from Nani on the left and Quaresma on the right.
Sissoko proved to be the best man for France when he struck a superb, powerful strike on the left to which Patricio made a brilliant stretched save. Andre-Pierre Gignac got the opportunity to win the game for France in the stoppage time as he turned inside Pepe in the penalty area only to have his shot scuffed off the post.
The extra-time saw Portugal in high action as Eder’s header forced a wonderful save from Lloris in the 104th minute. In the second period, Lloris again made a fabulous save to a lovely free kick from Raphael Guerreiro to the left of the goal. Just minutes later, Portugal work through the spread French defence as Eder received acres of space out the box to settle and strike an unstoppable strike into the left of the net.
France remained quiet post the goal and failed to make decisive attempts as Eder, with his first competitive goal, brought home the European trophy which will go down as the greatest achievement in the history of Portuguese football.
I’m so happy. This is something I have wanted for a long time now, ever since 2004. The Portuguese people deserve this, our players deserve this. This is one of the happiest moments of my career.”
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal captain)
We have an amazing group. They’ve always believed me when I told them we could win this. Wherever we’ve gone there have always been Portuguese fans. This lifted our souls. Our skipper put in an immense effort, he has amazing team spirit. He believed – just like myself – that tonight was our night.
Fernando Santos (Portugal coach)
We fought with immense strength, we were amazing. I think we deserve this title due to the work all the players and staff put in. Before extra time, Cristiano Ronaldo told me I would score the winning goal. He gave me strength and positive energy.”
Éder (Portugal match winner)
It’s cruel and magnificent at the same time. We’ve lived through some extraordinary moments, and the saddest moments as well. But tonight we gave it our all. We have no regrets. I’m proud of the squad, everybody.”
Antoine Griezmann (french, golden boot winner)
I have to congratulate Portugal. Clearly we had our opportunities and we weren’t clinical enough.”
Didier deschamps (french manager)