After almost four weeks of spectacular football action, it came down to the best teams in the competition. One team, who have showed an amazing consistency and which many expected to be in the final. The other team however was a surprise package to have made it this far – but have done so with grit and determination. Portugal faced a test where they needed to prove themselves once again after failing to win against Greece in the final in 2004. Can they go one better tonight and take home their first major tournament win in their country’s history or will France snatch the Henri Delaunay trophy and do what Portugal failed to do 12 years ago and that is to win on home soil?
Portugal showed the attacking threat early on as they had the first chance with Nani firing over the bar just outside the box. Not long after, both Sissoko and Griezmann had their chances as they saw their efforts going off target. In the ninth minute, Portugal had cause of concern as Ronaldo and Payet collided at halfway line.
Above: A teary Ronaldo knows his game is up.
The Portuguese star fell onto his knees and needed treatment but it was only on the 17th minute when the damage had been done. The Real Madrid forward left the pitch in a stretcher, tearing up as he knew he could no longer give anymore to the game. The match continued and again Sissoko starred as he tested Patricio with a blistering shot. Both sides entered into the change rooms with the scores still settled at 0-0.
Pogba gave the Selecao a scare as he blasted his shot well over the bar only just before Cedric managed to race back to Griezmann as his shot was well collected by Patricio. The first change came on the hour mark as Deschamps brought on young talent Kingsley Coman for Payet. This change proved to be an immediate effect as Coman’s cross found the Atletico forward who, from six yards out, somehow managed to miss the target from his header.
Above: Griezmann reacts after missing a glorious chance
It was all France from then as the Les Bleus pressed forward, keeping the Portuguese on their toes. Shots came firing at Patricio, but the Portuguese goalkeeper did an excellent job of keeping them out – one of which was a shot from Giroud after Coman slipped through a ball to the Arsenal forward. As extra time seemed to loom, both sides made significant changes to their attack. Giroud and Renato Sanches were replaced by Gignac and Eder respectively. Just minutes later, Nani cross drifted towards goal only for Lloris to push it out and collect it after Quaresma’s weak overhead kick.
Above: Lloris was brought to action for the first time after he palmed away Nani’s cross
Sissoko, who had been excellent all evening, bursted through the Portuguese midfield to unleash a powerful shot, which Patricio palmed away. But with extra time to appear as a certainty and with one minute left of injury time, Gignac should’ve closed the game for the French as he left Pepe for dead and blasted a low scuffed shot that hit the post – a shot that would have well gone in had he had a cleaner touch. Devastated that they should have won the game, the French trudged to the sidelines as the score was still nil all after full time.
Above: Gignac unleashes a scuffed shot which hits the post in the 92nd minute
French hearts skipped a beat as Pepe’s header was wide from a free kick, only to have them relieved as the defender was well offside. Again, Portugal continued to press as Quaresma’s cross landed on Eder’s head who saw the ball land straight at Lloris. Again, French fans were left biting their fingernails as Raphael Guerrero’s free kick hit the underside of the bar. But finally, the French defence was breached as Eder finally broke the deadlock with a blistering shot to find the bottom left corner from 20 yards. Lloris could get nowhere near the ball as the Stade de France erupted.
Above: Eder hits the ball cleanly, which ends up in the back of the net
Above: The Portugal team celebrate after Eder’s goal
With only 13 minutes left to play, the French pressed as hard as they could to find the equaliser but were unable to find a way back into the game. After 120 minutes, Portugal were crowned Champions of Europe.
So there you have it. Was it a surprising result? Yes! Did Portugal deserve to win it? Yes! Was it an amazing game? Certainly yes! While many expected the French to win this, Portugal hung onto the game. The Selecao seemed to have a stronger team play than the French. The Les Bleus however, seemed to rely on individuals to get the game going which was unlike their usual self. This was where the damage was done. Pogba has been outstanding all tournament as a defensive midfielder, rather than in attack. Umtiti was preferred as the starting position than usual starter Rami. But more importantly, France did not use their chances – they could have won the game after 90 minutes after two excellent chances.
Above: Portugal are crowned Champions of Europe
Meanwhile, Portugal had a better team chemistry on the night – and partly due to the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. They hung in when they were defending and they worked the ball well when they had possession. They made chances and they took them and that was how the game was won.
Above: Ronaldo finally celebrates with the Henri Delaunay trophy after failing to win it 12 years ago.
Congratulations to Portugal who won their very first major tournament and were crowned Champions of Europe.
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– Written by Peter Hoang