Portugal stuns France

SAINT-DENIS, France — Portugal’s players crowded around Cristiano Ronaldo as he sat on the turf, but their tearful captain couldn’t withstand the pain of his injury any longer.

Portugal 1 France 0

SAINT-DENIS, France — Portugal’s players crowded around Cristiano Ronaldo as he sat on the turf, but their tearful captain couldn’t withstand the pain of his injury any longer.

The Portuguese had to win their first major trophy the hard way on Sunday, stunning France 1-0 after extra time in the European Championship final – having played without Ronaldo from the 25th minute.

Two hours after being carried off on a stretcher, the three-time world player of the year returned a champion for the first time with his country.

“I had bad luck because I had a small injury in the beginning of the game, but my colleagues did their part — they run, they fight,” said Ronaldo, who has already won every major club honour. “Nobody believed in Portugal but we won”.

An unlikely scorer secured the pre-tournament outsiders a title at last.

It could be an uncomfortable few months ahead for Eder, the unheralded striker who will return shortly to French club Lille after breaking French hearts with his 109th-minute goal.

“The ugly duckling became beautiful,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

A second-half substitute, Eder scored only his fourth goal in 29 appearances for Portugal with a low shot from 25 metres (yards) past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

“Cristiano told me I would be scoring the winning goal,” Eder said. “He gave me strength and positive energy.”

In doing so, Portugal denied the French a third final victory on home soil to add to Euro ‘84 and the 1998 World Cup.

“Football can be very cruel,” said Lloris, France’s captain. “The overriding emotion is a lot of sadness.”

Twelve years after losing to Greece on home soil in their last appearance in the final, it was Portugal’s turn to spoil the host nation’s party. And they achieved it after winning only one of their seven games at Euro 2016 inside 90 minutes, and after losing the inspirational Ronaldo midway through the first half.

“It was tough because we lost our main man and we had all our hopes pinned on him because he’s a player who can score a goal at any minute,” Portugal defender Pepe said. “When he said he couldn’t go on, I tried to tell my teammates that we have to win it for him. That we were going to fight for him.”

It was a mostly dull and stodgy final but the record books will only show that Portugal went from third-place in its group to champion, and with little help from Ronaldo in its last match.

The championship’s first 24-team tournament became a reality over the last month, but the quality of football deteriorated. Such a sterile showpiece — the first European Championship final to be scoreless after 90 minutes — seemed a fitting climax.

“We weren’t clinical enough,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, who lifted the World Cup in the stadium as a player in 1998. “We weren’t cool-headed enough.”

Even France forward Antoine Griezmann, the tournament’s leading scorer, couldn’t rise to the big occasion. There was no seventh goal of Euro 2016 from the Atletico Madrid forward, who also lost out in the Champions League final six weeks ago to Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.

Griezmann was the first player to find the target, but his header was tipped over by Rui Patricio, who was formidable in the Portugal goal. When an inviting cross from Kingsley Coman was delivered in the 66th, Griezmann missed with a free header.

Only once was Patricio beaten, when Andre-Pierre Gignac’s shot hit the inside of the post but it came back out.

Luck was on Portugal’s side, and Eder was able to strike the decisive blow.

It didn’t seem to be going Portugal’s way in the ninth minute when Dimitri Payet’s right knee clattered into Ronaldo’s standing left leg.

Ronaldo went down in agony — writhing, grimacing and screaming. He was able to return, but this was one injury he could not run off.

Ronaldo fell to the turf again in the 17th. One of the moths infesting the national stadium fluttered over Ronaldo’s tearful right eye. Teammates tried to help in vain to help, with Nani tending to the knee.

Ronaldo watched the game forlornly on the touchline as strapping was attached before dragging himself back onto the field.

But Ronaldo’s mobility was restricted. Battling through the pain, regularly reaching down to check on the injury, Ronaldo realized there would be no miracle recovery.

The clock hit 23 minutes and Ronaldo ripped off his captain’s armband and tossed it on the turf. Slumping to the ground again, Ronaldo was consoled by Nani, who embraced his former Manchester United teammate as the armband was transferred.

The stretcher came on and in the 25th minute Ronaldo became a spectator. But thanks to Patricio’s array of saves and dogged defending, Ronaldo left a champion.

Unlike his great rival Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona forward, the 31-year-old Ronaldo has now filled the medal void on the major international stage. It’s a rapid turnaround for a national team that exited the 2014 World Cup in the group stage.

“It’s something unbelievable in my career,” Ronaldo said. “Something I deserve.”

Just Posted

Red Deer teacher contracts condemning same-sex relationships ‘not acceptable’

Eggen says Red Deer Catholic Schools assured him they no longer have employees sign the form

Second-degree murder trial on hold until January

Jury not back until Jan. 7 for 2015 stabbing death trial while lawyers argue evidence issues

Hospitalizations jump in Red Deer due to opioid poisonings

Small city hospitals impacted more by opioid crisis

Stray dog spotted in one Red Deer neighbourhood, could be missing for 1 year

Red Deerians asked not to feed this german shepard

Witnesses describe scene of fatal 2016 collision

Delburne man on trial for manslaughter after being accused of causing collision

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Dumba scores twice, Wild rout Canadiens 7-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reeling and banged up, the Minnesota Wild were… Continue reading

Coach Hunter wants up-tempo Team Canada as world junior squad hits ice

COLWOOD, B.C. — Team Canada coach Tim Hunter says the team that… Continue reading

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

NEW YORK — A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed… Continue reading

Price Is Right contestant wins winter trip to Winnipeg, Churchill

WINNIPEG — Who wants to visit Winnipeg in the dead of winter?… Continue reading

CBC Gem streaming service to launch exclusive content, partners with Wattpad

TORONTO — The CBC has launched a new streaming service featuring live… Continue reading

‘Part of the solution:’ Alberta seeks proposals to build new refinery

EDMONTON — Alberta is looking for someone to build a new oil… Continue reading

Most Read