Paris | A thundering out-of-the-blue shot by substitute Eder gave Portugal a shock 1-0 win over France in the European Championship final, delivering the country’s first international title as superstar Cristiano Ronaldo watched injured from the touchline.
Ronaldo was stretchered off in tears in the first half and limped on crying with joy again after his side delivered the final knockout blow in the month-long tournament of upsets.
Hosts France dominated the game, as they had nearly every match since the start. But they could not break down a Portuguese defence in which man-of-the-match Pepe was majestic and goalkeeper Rui Patricio produced a string of dramatic saves.
It was not the final I wanted but I am very happy. It is a trophy for all Portuguese, for all immigrants, all the people who believed in us so I am very happy and very proud, said Ronaldo.
Up against a French team with a whole nation behind them, Portugal healed their own football wound from a shock they suffered twelve years ago. In the 2004 Euro final, Portugal lost to Greece 1-0 on home territory.
Portugal can now expect a momentous national welcome when they return to Lisbon and a tickertape parade through the capital on Monday. Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos and the other players paid tribute to Ronaldo’s role in urging the team not to give up in the tense match at the Stade de France. Ronaldo returned from treatment at the end of 90 minutes to give pep talks to his teammates. He fell the ground in agony in the eighth minute following a clattering challenge from Dimitri Payet. After twice going off for treatment and trying to come back, Ronaldo was definitively carried off. He told me I was going to score the winning goal, said Eder who plays for French side Lille and only went on in the 79th minute. He gave me strength and positive energy.
Victory also gave Ronaldo energy. He danced past reporters with other Portugal players as they left the stadium. Cristiano is fundamental to us, said Santos. It would be utopian to not use Ronaldo and all his added value.
Cristiano could score at any moment and sort everything out on his own but I always said we are a team — we win as a team. Portugal defended doggedly and threatened occasionally without their inspirational skipper. With 109 minutes gone, Eder beat off a Laurent Koscielny challenge to fire a shot from outside the penalty area that French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris could not even get a hand to.