Portugal wins Euro 2016 after beating France 1-0 in final
Portugal won it's first ever European Championship after overcoming hosts France in a thrilling 120 minutes at the Stade de France in Paris, with substitute Eder’s extra-time goal enough to snatch victory for Fernando Santos’ side in their second European Championship final.
Much of the pre-match build-up focused on Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo with the Portuguese captain gearing up to take part in his second Euro final. The 31-year-old was part of the team that endured a shock 1-0 loss to Greece in the final of 2004 on home soil.
But it was to be a short-lived appearance for the three-time Ballon d'Or winner, with a stretcher and premature substitution needed just after the 20 minute mark after Ronaldo failed to recover from a heavy challenge from France midfielder Dimitri Payet, with the attacker leaving the pitch in floods of tears.
Ronaldo’s exit summed up a difficult opening period for Fernando Santos’ side who struggled to get started against the French, who in comparison were lively and full of invention.
Rui Patricio was at full stretch to keep out Antoine Greizmann in the first ten minutes with the top scorer at Euro 2016 testing the Portuguese keeper with a looping header.
Nani, Portugal’s captain in Ronaldo’s absence, had his side’s best chance of the half, blazing over when put through by a diagonal ball from the back.
The Portuguese have flattered to deceive throughout Euro 2016, despite reaching the final.
Three draws in the group stage saw them squeeze through to the first knockout round as one of the best third placed teams, with Croatia beaten in extra-time and Poland on penalties.
Their only win before the final came against the Welsh, who they beat 2-0 in Lyon in the semi-finals.
France started the second half as it began the first, very much on top of the Portuguese, but Deschamps’ side failed to fashion many clear-cut opportunities despite having the lion’s share of possession.
The French beat Iceland 5-2 in the quarter-finals and then went on to topple world champions Germany 2-0 in the semis, with Les Bleus playing exceptionally throughout the tournament.
But they struggled to find a way through the resolute Portugal backline, however, and it was not until the final quarter of the match did the game really spring into life, with both sides almost snatching the game at the death.
Substitute Kingsley Coman first gave Arsenal man Olivier Giroud a sight of goal from the left, with his shot saved again by Rui Patricio, with star man Moussa Sissoko also denied by the fingertips of the Portugal keeper.
Ricardo Quaresma almost silenced Paris with a spectacular overhead kick after Hugo Lloris had palmed away Nani’s cross/shot and André-Pierre Gignac hit the inside of the post deep into injury time.
With extra-time came the threat of a decent into a war of attrition at the Stade de France, with both France and Portugal seemingly running out of ideas as fatigue took hold.
But extra-time brought even more drama, and the winning goal of Euro 2016.
First Raphael Guerreiro, who has been one of the stars of the tournament, struck the bar with Lloris well beaten before Eder, who plays for Lille in France, stunned the hosts with a long-range strike that arrowed into the bottom left corner.
The goal was celebrated wildly by a good portion of the Stade de France and especially the Portuguese bench who flooded onto the pitch to jump on the former Swansea striker, with the French team and nation shell-shocked.
There was to be no dramatic equalizer for the hosts as Portugal saw out the match in relative comfort, clearly finally finding its rhythm after a dour opening period of the tournament.
Portugal has been the perennial nearly-team over the years, exiting at the semi-final stage three times, the quarters twice and the devastating 2004 final loss to Greece.
But its consistency at the European Championships has now finally been rewarded, with Portugal defying the odds and overcoming the French to win its first Euros at the second time of asking.
And even without its talismanic striker and captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who fell to his knees at the full time whistle, in tears once again as his side became, for the first time, European Champions.