For the first time in their history, the Portugal national football team wins a major trophy, beating France 1-0 to win Euro 2016. Eder scored the winning goal in extra time, the French wept in front of their home fans at the Stade de France, and Cristiano Ronaldo actually missed out on most of the action, taken out early due to an injury he couldn’t overcome.
As big as he is, Ronaldo shouldn’t have been the focus of the victory, but he simply can’t pull himself away from the spotlight. I’m still not quite sure how Mark Clattenburg didn’t send him off for all of his prancing and dancing on the sidelines, walking and running outside the technical area, acting like the head coach, disrupting the French bench, and more. He lifted the trophy, of course, in something of a John Terry move like in 2012 and 2013 for Chelsea. Ronaldo, of course, with three goals in this tournament, played a part in Portugal making the final, but his absence may have helped Portugal in the final, making it more difficult for France against a game plan they didn’t prepare for.
Fernando Santos prepared perfectly for France, making it very difficult for Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba to find space. This made Moussa Sissoko the key man and France’s most dangerous player for a long time, but that’s a gamble the Portugal were willing to take. Better the industrious yet quite straightforward midfielder than someone like Payet or Griezmann, with the latter missing a couple of good chances, although the best of them fell to Andre-Pierre Gignac, hitting the post before France withered away in extra time.
As the minutes went by, France’s players look content with a draw and penalty kicks. Didier Deschamps missed his opportunity to introduce Anthony Martial and bring some speed and width to the team. He only did it after Eder sent a low, thunderous kick from more than 25 meters out, surprising Hugo Lloris, who should have reacted more quickly to the shot. France didn’t really come close afterwards to equalize. They had nothing left, and they were tactically beaten, with Deschamps unable to find a solution.
Another final in which Ronaldo does very little and less, and walks away as a champion. Of course, he did more in the tournament, but the feeling of opportunism doesn’t disappear. This wasn’t a good tournament for Ronaldo, and Portugal functioned just as well without him. The way he behaved after the victory didn’t seem adequate, once again pulling the celebration towards him. Maybe he simply is that magnetic, but it’s probably something else. Not sinister, simply difficult to sympathize with.
Overall, as time will pass, this will go down as one of the biggest upsets in International football history. France, at home, heavily favored, with 65 minutes to win a match without Ronaldo, who was limping well before that. They couldn’t come up with one magical touch in extra time either. It says something about their mental strength as a team, and maybe a bit about Deschamps, despite his impressive tournament thus far. More than anything, it says something about the spirit of the Portuguese side and the tactical ingenuity of their manager, now part of Portuguese football pantheon, as the man who led them to their first ever title, something many feel should have come years ago considering the talent Portuguese football has produced over the years.