Portugal have beaten France 1-0 and are the champions of Europe! Such contrasting emotions from the two sides.
Tears from both, but for many different reasons. Cristiano Ronaldo’s sadness has turned to joy, while many of the France players look inconsolable as they sit dejected on the turf.
Pepe, having given so much during the 120 minutes, appears to throw up on the pitch, but is quickly back with his team-mates to continue the celebrations.
In the end, Cristiano Ronaldo had his winner’s medal, even if it was not the way the great showman had intended. Portugal, the team that finished third in their group, had found a way even on a night when their greatest player left the pitch on a stretcher.
The players of France were on their knees and, on the far touchline, Ronaldo could be seen trying to make sense of an extraordinary story and take in all the contrasting emotions. Ronaldo’s damaged knee might have been a grievous setback but Portugal refused to let it be the decisive factor. They gave everything to keep out France during those long passages when they were put under pressure and, ultimately, Éder’s decisive goal in the second period of extra time won a test of endurance.
Their run of 10 successive defeats to France, stretching back to 1975, is over and they can reflect on the greatest achievement in the history of their national team. Their tactics will not appeal to everyone but nobody could possibly dispute their toughness to cope after the jarring challenge that meant their three-time Ballon d’Or winner could play only a bit-part role in the glory. Former Swansea striker Eder, who came on as a late second-half replacement for Renato Sanches, struck low into the bottom corner past Hugo Lloris from 25 yards to hand Portugal their first-ever major tournament crown in dramatic fashion.
The sight of Portugal’s captain Cristiano Ronaldo in tears after being substituted with a knee injury was undoubtedly the key moment from a tame first half in Paris, though the majority of half-chances fell to France.
In the second half, unmarked Antoine Griezmann’s glancing header went just over the bar from close range, before substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac hit the post in stoppage time.
Portugal had the better chances in extra-time before Eder’s stunning winner, and the victory also means Fernando Santos’ side ended a 41-year winless streak against the French, which included the infamous 1984 European Championship semi-final defeat in Marseille.
France went unchanged from the 2-0 semi-final win against Germany on Thursday, while Pepe came back into the Portugal side for Bruno Alves, and William Carvalho replaced Danilo.
After the lights of the Stade de France were left on overnight, a swarm of moths threatened to cause havoc in the build-up to the match, but the players looked undeterred in the early stages. Portugal had the first half-chance of the game, new Valencia signing Nani striking over the bar from the right corner of the area with a first-time half volley after Cedric Soares’ searching ball from deep.
Tournament top scorer Griezmann’s instinctive header inside the area looped towards the top corner moments later, only for Rui Patricio to acrobatically tip wide, before disaster struck for Ronaldo. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner, hoping to lead Portugal to their first international success, came off worse after clashing knees with Dimitri Payet following a hefty but fair challenge from the West Ham man.
There were tears for a 19-year-old Ronaldo 12 years ago as Portugal lost the Euro 2004 final against Greece in Lisbon, and he cried again in Paris, returning to the pitch from receiving treatment only to be brought off on a stretcher after finally giving in to the pain.
The incident evoked memories of the World Cup final at the same venue in 1998, when Brazil talisman Ronaldo’s fitness was heavily speculated on before the clash, and even more after his side lost 3-0 against France.
Portugal manager Santos replaced Ronaldo with Quaresma, but his side looked conservative for the remainder of the first half as France pushed for the opener.
And it was substitute Eder who scored the all-important goal. Picking the ball up 25 yards out from fellow sub Joao Moutinho, the Lille striker battle off the challenge of Koscielny before striking low into the bottom corner past Lloris’ outstretched hand, sending the vocal Portugal support into ecstasy in France’s backyard.
Despite a late half-chance for substitute Anthony Martial, Ronaldo’s tears of despair turned to tears of joy as Portugal held on for the final 11 minutes.