Portugal shocked the world as they beat hosts France in the Euro 2016 final even after the early loss of their captain Cristiano Ronaldo thanks to an extra time winner from striker Eder.
A dull, boring spectacle riddled with mistakes and nerves was eventually settled after 120 minutes of lifeless football with the first real ounce of quality from a player who couldn’t even get into the Swansea side,Eder.
The Portuguese captain Ronaldo was reduced to tears after just 25 minutes in the Stade De France after a tough challenge from Dimitri Payet left the forward in obvious discomfort.
Didier Deschamps France side were already overwhelming favorites in the game but they were unable to capitalize on Ronaldo’s absence, although they came inches from winning it at the death as substitute Andre Pierre-Gignac’s strike bobbled onto the post.
Portugal though looked the better side in extra time as Raphael Guerrero rattled the crossbar with his dipping free kick effort but just seconds later they were in-front as Eder shrugged off Laurent Koscielny to fire home hard and low past a stranded Hugo Lloris.
Ronaldo may have been unable to effect the game directly after his early injury but he made his presence more than felt on the touchline where he was kicking every ball and running every yard with his team mates.
There was no surprise at the final whistle that he was once again reduced to tears in a European cup final but this time he had his hands on the trophy that has eluded his country for far too long.
Tactical Portugal shock us all
I think it would be an understatement to highlight that Portugal were one of the less exciting sides in the tournament – winning just a single game in 90 minutes against Wales in the semi’s.
But there is no denying that they managed to get it tactically spot on when it mattered.
Yes there were sides that played more attractive football but that didn’t manage to win them the Euros.
Portugal finished third in their group behind both Hungary and Iceland but yet still managed to win the competition thanks completely to the new competition format.
In the knockout rounds they came up against Croatia who they beat 1-0 in extra time thanks to Ricardo Quaresma, drew 1-1 with Poland but eventually came through on penalties and then they eventually won their first game against Wales 2-0.
Although Portugal are probably more well known for their attacking stars it was there defenders that really guided them to success. The resilience and hunger that the back four had to defend was heroic.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio was unbeatable and his brick wall in-front of him which was comprised of both Pepe and Jose Fonte rarely found itself opened up.
What coach Fernando Santos has done for this country will never be forgotten, This was the greatest moment in Portugal’s history and his style of play deserves a fair share of credit.
France left shocked
After defeating Germany in the semi-final nobody could see anything different than a French victory on Sunday but it isn’t often as simple as that.
Throughout the competition Didier Deschamps men have grown stronger with every passing game with nerves no where to be seen in a side full of confidence backed by a special home crowd.
But perhaps the wait of expectation finally got to them where they were seen as outstanding favorites against Portugal in the final. They even had the helping hand of Ronaldo’s early departure to lift them some more but it seemed to hinder them more than anything.
That being said though they were probably the better side in 90 minutes and were inches away from clinching the game with 60 seconds to go as Andre Pierre-Gignac’s effort seemed to roll in ultra slow motion onto the base of the post, one of the very few times Portugal had been opened up.
France never managed to re-find their rhythm in extra time and looked a shadow of the side we had seen for the last 90 minutes who looked assured and in control. Eder’s goal however was still a shock to everyone in attendance and watching all across the world.
As the final whistle blew the realization of what might have been for France hit home like a tone of bricks and it was to much for some to handle especially Blaise Matuidi who had tears of disappointment covering his face.
This sides time will come again though as youth is on their side. This can be a learning curve to ensure they never face pain like this again in their careers.
From agony to ecstasy – Ronaldo
The man who was carrying the weight of Portugal’s hopes on his shoulders, the man for the big occasion and unfortunately the man who didn’t manage to last a single half of football.
Before undoubtedly the best player on the field had even got into the game he soon found himself out of it wondering what had just happened to the moment he was meant to grab with both hands.
In a second the game was turned upside down after a Dimtri Payet challenge left Ronaldo in obvious discomfort as Portugal held their breath. With pride and and adrenaline coursing through his body though Ronaldo braved the pain for as long as he could.
He soon realized that his time was up and frustration quickly turned to sorrow as he sat on the floor with his head in his hands wondering if we would ever get another opportunity like this.
With Ronaldo gone seemingly had any realistic chances Portugal had of winning this trophy that Ronaldo chased more than any other.
But with Ronaldo’s passion and ecstasy touching everyone of his team mates they put up one hell of a fight for him to secure his dream.
The Madrid man has won almost everything domestically in football but a landmark victory for his country has always eluded him.
It seemed like Euro 2004 all over again when the then 19 year old burst into tears after they lost their final 1-0 to Greece in one of the biggest footballing shocks to date.
Learning from this heartache Ronaldo wasn’t about to let that happen again. He kicked every ball and ran every inch with his team mates on the pitch and even highlighted his desire to win by becoming what seemed to be an assistant coach for the last 10 minutes.
When the final whistle was blown by Mark Clattenburg he broke down into tears as a life time dream had been achieved when it looked almost impossible.
A heavily strapped knee or a broken leg Cristiano Ronaldo was making it up what must have felt like an eternity of stairs to get his hands on the prize. He lifted the trophy aloft with pride to add to his ever growing collection of honors.
His night started and ended in tears but his legacy of a Portugal legend will now forever be cemented in history.
The moth invasion
We were all left pretty mothed by events in the Stade De France last night.
Before the game had even kicked off everyone had a huge surprise to see the stadium flooded with Moths proving a nuisance to fans, players and officials alike.
The floodlights were accidentally left on the night before the final attracting a sea of moths who were still inside the stadium at kick off.
They did a good job to get rid of most of the pests before kick off but there were still one or two that wanted to have their moment in the spotlight.
None more so than the moth who had the tenacity to sit on Ronaldo’s face as he sat in tears after sercumming to the knee injury that ruled him out after 25 minutes of the Euro 2016 Final.