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Portugal overcome Ronaldo loss – and France – to be crowned Euro champions

After going off injured, Cristiano Ronaldo cheered on his team from the sidelines.
10 Jul 2016 – 07:11 PM EDT

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Portugal beat France to win European Cup Crédito: Getty Images

A night which seemed destined to be one of French glory ended in hjoy for Portugal after a long-range extra-time strike from substitute Eder upset the hosts – despite the Portuguese losing Cristiano Ronaldo to injury early in the game.

Everything seemed to be in France’s favour – the home field advantage at their Stade de France, a talented young team brimming in confidence after beating world champions Germany in the semi-finals and then the biggest threat to their hopes was taken out of the game on a stretcher after just 25 minutes.

But at the end of the night it was Ronaldo, who had returned from the locker-room to encourage his team-mates ahead of extra-time, who raised the trophy, starting a long night of celebration for the Portuguese in Paris.

Twice there had been tears from the three-times World Player of the Year — first, when he was carried off on a stretcher after two attempts to carry on playing following an eighth minute challenge from Dimitri Payet and then at the final whistle when his, and his country’s, long wait for a major trophy was finally over.

France may have had the majority of possession and created the better chances but it would be ungenerous to view Portugal’s success as anything other than deserved.

Not only did they respond to the blow of losing their talisman by finding the determination to make sure there was no question of them crumbling in disappointment but they also had the physical strength to enjoy the better of the extra 30 minutes.

They also had their goalkeeper Rui Patricio to thank for a series of fine saves to keep out France – and a little bit of luck after French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac struck the woodwork at the end of regulation time.

Payet’s challenge on Ronaldo, with the Frenchman following through into the Real Madrid man’s knee, did not even result in a foul let alone a caution for the West Ham United player.

Ronaldo did all he could to play through pain, twice leaving the field for medical attention, but there was nothing he could do and the atmosphere in the stadium, changed dramatically with the noise dissipating and a sense among the crowd that the final had lost someone who, regardless of the outcome, was surely going to be one of the main protagonists.

France had started with intense aggression but even they were affected by the Ronaldo incident and lost their momentum, only a shot from the outstanding Moussa Sissoko troubling Patricio before the break.

Didier Deschamps team played most of the second half in Portuguese territory but didn’t create enough – Olivier Giroud had a shot on the half-turn well saved and then Sissoko brought an even better diving save out of Patricio with a fierce long-range drive.

Portugal were not content to play for extra-time though and they forced France keeper Hugo Lloris into a double-save in the 80th minute when he had to stretch to keep out a cross/shot rom Nani and then deal with Quresman’s acrobatic reaction to the rebound.

In the final moments of regulation time, Gignac, who plays in Mexico for Tigres, wriggled himself some space for a shot but his low drive struck the post – and extra-time it was to be.

Portugal went close when Raphael Guerreiro curled a free-kick against the cross-bar but moments later Éder, powered past Koscielny, strode goalwards and unleashed a low drive into the bottom corner past the flaying Lloris.

There was no way back then for France as Portugal sensed that after the bitter disappointment of losing on home soil to Greece in 2004 was about to be vanquished.

Cue the next round of tears for Ronaldo, who has now achieved what his long-standing rival to the title of greatest of the era, Argentina’s Lionel Messi has been unable to – glory for his nation.

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