It was a memorable night for Portugal as the national football team overcame hosts France to lift the Euro Henry Delaunay trophy on Sunday. The final was played in front of a packed Stade De France stadium in Paris, amid the immense football hysteria that had gripped the global audience. The only goal of the game was scored by the recently maligned Portuguese striker Eder, who had entered the fray as a substitute on the night. It was their first major international trophy in recent memory, and given that the nation has been home to some fantastic footballers, major international trophies had eluded them.
The game started on a high note, as the players flexed their muscles and tested each others’ resolve, undoubtedly preparing for bigger tests to come. French talisman Antoine Griezmann was the first to test the might of Portugal’s keeper Rui Patricio as he pounced on a delightful Dimitri Payet pass after Portugal had conceded possession in a dangerous area, and according to many this was meant to be the flow of the match, as fans expected wave after wave of Les Bleus attacks. This failed to materialize though, as the Portuguese gave a lesson in tactical defending and tremendous team play to see off the first half of the final.
The second half had the same flow, as the French attacking players tried to crack open the opponent’s rigid defense and midfield, to no avail. Despite losing mercurial player Cristiano Ronaldo early in the first half due to injury, Portugal never lost their focus and were resilient enough to keep the French at bay. French Midfield star Paul Pogba, who was meant to be among the best players in the tournament according to fans and pundits alike, failed to get a grip on the game, as the Portugal midfielders worked hard to stifle any creativity and organization from the French midfield and attackers. In what was seen a s a boring game by some fans and pundits, the level of tactical sophistication was evident for all to see, given that a cagey encounter has many attributes that normally go unnoticed. As extra time beckoned, the French fans were running out of patience, even though their team had most of the ball during the game. Eventually, the man of the moment Eder struck in the second half of extra time to send the Portuguese fans and teammates into rapturous celebrations, and condemn the French team to a first loss in the tournament.
It was another golden chance for one of the world’s greatest players, Cristiano Ronaldo. In the Euro competition in 2004 that was hosted in Portugal many story lines were written, none more so than the underdog story of Greece, who overcame the odds and prevailed against tougher opposition to scoop the trophy, defeating Portugal in the final. In that Portugal team, there were a host of stars, including legends Luis Figo, Rui costa among others, and a young talent, Cristiano Ronaldo who had just completed a move to Manchester United a year or so earlier. It was meant to be a fairy tale ending for him that year, as he set the tournament ablaze as a young player, together with Englishman Wayne Rooney ,who was also young by then, but it wasn’t to be, as they succumbed to the ‘Underdog syndrome’ and Greece crushed the hopes of a nation. On Sunday, another chance presented itself, and his team helped him achieve on e of his dreams, achieving international success with the Portugal national team. “I’m so happy, very happy. This was something I’ve wanted for a long time now, ever since 2004. I asked God to give me another chance,”
said Ronaldo, his joy evident for all to see.