Portugal sealed a stunning Euro 2016 triumph after clinching an extra-time win over France in Paris, earlier today.
Much of the pre-match discussion was dominated by Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo – arguably the two most important players for both sides. But within minutes into the game, Ronaldo picked up an injury, as Payet unintentionally clattered into him.
The Portuguese skipper attempted to carry on, but looked visibly uncomfortable on the pitch. Moments later, he sat down and was reduced to tears, before signalling for the stretcher to be brought in.
Quaresma was brought on in place of him, as Portugal attempted to maintain their shape and not lose focus. They did it brilliantly for the remaining of the first half, though France looked far more dangerous after the break.
Rui Patricio was forced to make several crucial saves in the second half, particularly attempts from Olivier Giroud and Sissoko. But Portugal held on and kept the score 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes.
Extra time was up next, and you could almost sense the tension within the stadium. Andre Pierre Gignac hit the post with an attempt, before Raphael’s fantastic free-kick rattled against the bar minutes later. But in the second half of extra time, Eder popped up with a grounded effort from just outside the box, firing past Hugo Lloris to make it 1-0 on the night.
France responded by throwing everything upfront, but a combination of excellent defending from the Portuguese center-backs as well as fantastic goalkeeping from Rui Patricio, allowed Portugal to preserve their slender lead and ultimately clinch the European Championship title.
When Ronaldo was stretchered off the pitch, he passed the armband to Nani, symbolically reminding him that Portuguese hopes were on his shoulders now. And boy oh boy, did he carry them with conviction. The ex-Man Utd man was all over the field, constantly making runs towards the French defenders. He kept switching flanks with Quaresma and came close with several attempts. In extra-time, when the Portuguese squad looked visibly tired, Nani’s endless energy provided a timely buzz within the squad and kept them going till the end.
It’s really surprising that we got to see very little of Eder in this tournament. The Lille forward was a constant threat after his introduction, and seemed comfortable being the focal point of Portugal’s attack. His upper-body strength was a major problem for Umtiti and Koscielny, and judging by his goal, Eder seems to also have an eye for goal. Fantastic performance from the ex-Swansea striker.
Sissoko is probably trending topic in Newcastle at the moment as the Frenchman was absolutely astounding for Les Bleus today. In fact, he was so good that even Newcastle fans are shell-shocked on the sidelines. He was quick, tenacious, and constantly used his sheer strength to power past the Portuguese players. He even had two fantastic attempts, though on both occassions, he was denied by a solid Rui Patricio.