Portugal stun France to win cup despite Ronaldo injury
Portugal overcame the loss of injured captain Cristiano Ronaldo to beat France 1-0 in the European Championship final yesterday, with a goal in extra time from substitute Eder securing their country's first football title.
Just as the final looked destined for a penalty shoot-out, Eder cut through the French defence and struck a low shot from 25 yards past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the 109th minute at the Stade de France.
Twelve years after losing to Greece on home soil in their last appearance in the final, it was Portugal's turn to spoil the host nation's party. And they achieved it after winning only one of their seven games at Euro 2016 inside 90 minutes, and after losing the inspirational Ronaldo midway through the first half.
"It was tough because we lost our main man and we had all our hopes pinned on him because he's a player who can score a goal at any minute," Portugal defender Pepe said. "When he said he couldn't go on, I tried to tell my teammates that we have to win it for him. That we were going to fight for him."
And they did.
Red and green confetti descended from the roof on to Ronaldo and his victorious teammates as supporters of the hosts flooded out of the stadium, denied a third victory on French soil to add to Euro '84 and the 1998 World Cup.
"Football can be very cruel," said Lloris, France's captain. "The overriding emotion is a lot of sadness."
It was a mostly dull and stodgy final, but the record books will only show that Portugal went from third place in their group to champions, and with little help from Ronaldo in their last match.
European football's biggest game lost its biggest name after 25 minutes of a cagey final on the outskirts of the French capital.
"Today, I had bad luck because I had a small injury in the beginning of the teams, but my colleagues did their part they run, they fight ... nobody believed in Portugal but we won," Ronaldo said.
After years of planning, the championship's first 24-team tournament became a reality over the last month, but the quality of football deteriorated. Such a sterile showpiece the first European Championship final to be scoreless after 90 minutes seemed a fitting climax.
Even France forward Antoine Griezmann, the tournament's leading scorer, couldn't rise to the big occasion. There was no seventh goal of Euro 2016 from the AtlÈtico Madrid forward, who also lost out in the Champions League final six weeks ago to Ronaldo's Real Madrid.
Griezmann was the first player to find the target, but his header was tipped over by Rui Patricio, who was formidable in the Portugal goal.
When an inviting cross from Kingsley Coman was delivered in the 66th, Griezmann missed with a free header.
Only once was Patricio beaten, when Andre-Pierre Gignac's shot hit the inside of the post, but it came back out.
Luck was on Portugal's side and Eder was able to strike the decisive blow.
For the unheralded striker, who plays in France for Lille, it was only his fourth goal in 29 appearances for Portugal.
"Cristiano told me I would be scoring the winning goal," Eder said. "He gave me strength and positive energy."