Euro Flashback: Unlikely hero hands Portugal Euro 2016 glory
Throughout Euro 2020, LiveScore will be looking back at classic games from previous tournaments. In today’s column, we remember Portugal’s 1-0 victory over France in the 2016 final.
After suffering home embarrassment when losing the Euro 2004 final to Greece, the shoe was on the other foot when Portugal met France in 2016.
Far from a fancied side ahead of the tournament, the Selecao's victory over Wales in the semi-final gave them the chance to finally win a major trophy.
It was a peculiar scene at the Stade de France ahead of kick-off. The floodlights had been left on overnight, meaning thousands of moths were in the ground, settling on players in the warm-up and being swept off the pitch by ground staff.
And that was not to be the only unusual occurrence on a long evening in Paris.
Cristiano Ronaldo has won all there is to win in club football — Champions League trophies, Premier League titles and honours in Spain and Italy.
But success at international level had always eluded the forward prior to this tournament.
He’d been close. Ronaldo inspired his nation to the final of Euro 2004 as a 19-year-old before they fell at the last hurdle to plucky underdogs Greece.
He had grabbed his team by the scruff of the neck on numerous occasions in the 2016 championships, too. But a coming together with Dimitri Payet in the 25th minute saw Ronaldo forced off the pitch with a knee injury.
The Portuguese star would play no further part in the final.
Hosts fail to deliver
That offered a huge boost to France, yet they were unable to take advantage of Portugal losing their talisman.
They went into the match as heavy favourites after defeating World Cup holders Germany at the semi-final stage and substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac nearly won the game for the hosts at the end of normal time when turning sharply before hitting the inside of the post.
That miss ultimately proved to be costly, as Les Bleus suffered the embarrassment of defeat in a final on home soil.
An unexpected hero
There were a whole host of world-class players on the pitch at the Stade de France, all capable of single-handedly turning a game on its head.
With that in mind, very few people would have predicted that Swansea’s Eder would be the match winner.
It looked like the Selecao had missed their best opportunity to win the game when Raphael Guerreiro struck the bar from a free-kick in extra-time. But moments later, Eder drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to seal victory in the 109th minute.
Player turned manager
The image of Ronaldo beckoning his team-mates on from the touchline during the game’s latter stages lives long in the memory.
Unable to make an impact on the pitch, he was determined to play a part from the sidelines — yelling instructions and encouragement at his Selecao colleagues.
That they only won one game within 90 minutes in the whole tournament, including three draws at the group stage, didn't matter one bit when the final whistle went.
Ronaldo and his peers celebrated the night away at a shocked Stade de France with their name finally etched onto the trophy.