Portugal are kings of Europe
Portugal have won Euro 2016 after Eder’s superb extra-time strike gave them a 1-0 victory over hosts France in Paris this evening, despite Cristiano Ronaldo coming off injured in the first half.
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 Ricardo Quaresma, but his side looked conservative for the remainder of the first half as France pushed for the opener.
Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko, France’s brightest player in the first half, turned wonderfully in the area to gain a yard on Adrien Silva, but his fierce effort from 12 yards was beaten away by Patricio.
The early stages of the second half continued in a similar fashion as France dominated possession while failing to create any clear-cut chances, forcing Didier Deschamps to replace Payet with winger Kingsley Coman.
Griezmann came close with 25 minutes remaining, heading over from six yards after Coman’s superb cross from the left, an opportunity that looked tailor-made for the Atletico Madrid man having scored two headers previously in the tournament.
Coman then fed the ball through to Olivier Giroud to shoot from a tight angle from the left of the area, but Patricio was equal to it, parrying it across goal and clear.
At the other end, Lloris’ unnecessary acrobatic punch clear from Nani’s mis-hit cross put France in danger, but the Tottenham goalkeeper was able to catch Joao Mario’s rebound from an overhead kick.
Sissoko then forced a good save out of Patricio with a long-range effort, before the best chance of the 90 minutes fell to Gignac in injury time.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal from Patrice Evra’s cross, Gignac turned Pepe six yards out before striking the foot of the near post.
The ball then rolled across the six-yard box, but Griezmann could not convert as Portugal survived into extra time, the fourth time in six major tournament finals that a contest needed the extra period.
Only one goal had been scored in the previous four periods of extra time in the tournament, but Eder did his best to buck the trend, powering a header towards goal from Quaresma’s corner, only for Lloris to beat clear.
Quaresma then hit the bar from a 25-yard free-kick, awarded questionably as replays showed Eder had in fact handled the ball, not the penalised Laurent Koscielny.
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 struck 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. (SkySports)