France finished the Euro 2016 as runners up to the shock of the watching world as they were expected to win the European Championships in front of their home fans like they achieved in 1984 and at the World Cup in 1998.
Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps picked the same line-up that defeated World Champions Germany in the semifinal while Portugal only had one change from the team that squeezed past Wales in the semifinal as Pepe returned.
Fernando Santos defensive approach to games had drawn criticisms of his side especially after they finished third in Group F behind Hungary and Iceland and only bettered bottom placed Austria.
But they weren’t fazed as they rolled themselves into the final played at the beautiful Stade de France. As expected the stadium were covered with blue – the colour of the hosts but Portugal never showed any fear as they had in their Arsenal three-time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
That faith was soon shaken as the Real Madrid star went off injured within the first 25th minute of the first half after he was accidentally clattered into by one of the outstanding talents of the competition Dimitri Payet. Ronaldo initially went off for treatment and returned to a rapturous applaud from the A Selecao supporters.
He showed hunger and determination to carry on but not even the strongest man in the world can run properly with a knee injury. The former Manchester United’s leg was strapped as he tried to move gallantly but pulled out, signaling to the bench that he couldn’t endure the pains anymore.
As he sat on the field, he cried like a baby not because of the pain but because that was the only trophy missing in his career as he has won everything in club football but not with his country. His tears glued a butterfly to his face and he didn’t even notice as he was so in the moment.
He was stretched off the pitch in a rare scene as that could easily have passed for the first time he was taken out of the pitch on a stretcher. The faith Portugese fans showed at the start of the game began to evaporate as their best player by a mile will no longer take any part in the final.
The supporters were engulfed in fear but the team never caved as they stayed strong and Nani who took the Captain’s arm-ban from Ronaldo stood tall and led the fight from the front. They prevented France from scoring for the rest of the 90minutes thanks largely to the heroics of goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
France piled on pressure and hit the post through André-Pierre Gignac but Portugal was edger and spirited as they snatched an unlikely win in extra-time just after Raphael Guerreiro it the post via a freekick and Ronaldo returned to shout instruction from the sideline as a coach.
Substitute Eder who currently plays with Nigerian international Vincent Enyeama in Lille and born in Guinea-Bissau fired a shot from 25yards past Hugo Lloris and Portugal celebrated.
It was heartbreak for France and Ronaldo’s tears turned out to be one of joy as it turned out a remarkable year for the 31-year-old who also lead Real Madrid to win the UEFA Champions League for a record 11th time. He did not pick up the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament or the topscorer prize which went to Atletico Madrid man Antoine Griezmann but when the FIFA Ballon D’Or will be named, his name will be number one.