A brilliant extra-time strike by substitute Eder was all that was needed to decide the Euro 2016 final and break the heart of France as Portugal became the tenth country to lift the Euro trophy.
This was Portugal’s first major tournament and no one but coach Fernando Santos predicted this – certainly not with the way they went about the tournament and certainly not after losing captain and star man Cristiano Ronaldo, barely 25 minutes into the final after the Real Madrid forward clashed knees with Dimitri Payet. Ronaldo for all his beauty as a player did his best to manage his jarred knee but had to leave in tears when it was evident he could no longer carry on. He was set to miss the rest of his biggest career game.
France were favourites to win this one, they had the most potent attack in the tournament. Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann had 6 goals to his name already. Didier Deschamps men had been commanding in their group, edged past Ireland, put Iceland to the sword and found a way past Germany. Their opponents on the other hand finished 3rd in their group and somehow got to the semi-final without winning a game inside 90 minutes. So little wonder they dragged the game into extra time, it was their territory, and having lost Ronaldo so early in the game, they had to hang on, they did, they did very well.
The French should have been wary of this, they should not have allowed the game wear on that long, they should have found a way inside the 90. They must did though – in the 90th minute, substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned brilliantly in the box to lose his markers, only to fire his shot against the upright. What a victory that would have been but it was clearly not France’s night as extra time came and we looked set to go into penalty shoot-outs as Portugal seemed uninterested in breaking forward.
In the 108th minute, referee Mark Clattenburg who had been without blemish the whole night, saw a hand come in contact with the ball just outside the French box. The hand was Eder’s but Laurent Koscielny was penalised wrongly. Portuguese left back, in the absence of Ronaldo, stepped to take the free kick – it was powerful and precise but it came off the bar. But seconds later, Eder again was entangled with Koscielny – only this time, he shrugged off the challenge from the Arsenal defender before firing a low, thunderous effort past Hugo Lloris from 30 yards out.
Eder was a Swansea City reject, forgotten by everybody but somehow he had been thrust into this game with two tasks – to hold the ball up in the French half and also work a miracle for his country. He did both to perfection. Nobody will forget this forgotten player’s name now.
Wild celebrations followed and Ronaldo, who had made himself assistant manager up until that moment offering encouragement and tactical advise to his players, broke into tears, completely ecstatic from what he’d just witnessed – the title was coming home to Portugal. The pain of that 2004 loss to Greece would be forgotten.
Portugal, champions of Europe…