Portugal claim Euro 2016 over hosts France despite Ronaldo injury

Portugal overcame an injury to superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to capture their first major football title when they beat hosts France 1-0 on Sunday on an extra-time winner from substitute Eder.

Eder, who plays at French club Lille, beat Hugo Lloris with a low shot into the bottom left corner in the 109th minute.

"Ronaldo said 'you must score the winning goal'," Eder said. "It was great to score the winning goal. But what was decisive was the team performance."

The goal came shortly after left-back Raphael Guerreiro had hit the crossbar with a free-kick, but Portugal were lucky as France substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac was denied a winner by the left post in stoppage time before the extra period.

Ronaldo meanwhile hurt his left knee in a collision with Dimitri Payet, and after trying to play on eventually had to leave in the 24th minute on a a stretcher and in tears - which turned into tears of joy when it was all over.

He was the last member of the team up the stairs, which he ascended limping heavily, for the victory ceremony and had the honour of lifting the trophy.

"I am very happy, I have have been looking for this long time," Ronaldo said. "I asked God for another chance. Today I was unfortunate to be injured but I always believed the players with the coaching strategy would be capable to win."

Coach Fwernando Santos said: "Cristiano Ronaldo has been amazing example trying to remain on the pitch. He was very strong in the locker room and on the pitch. He helped all the boys - we deserved to win."

Portugal fulfilled their dream of a first major title at last after they had lost the 2004 decider at home against outsiders Greece, with a then 19-year-old Ronaldo.

They remain unbeaten in competitive games under coach Fernando Santos, who started the job in October 2014 in the same stadium, losing a friendly against France 2-1.

Dignitaries including the finalists' presidents, Francois Hollande and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and FIFA president Gianno Infantino attended the big final watched on television by an expected audience of 300 million.

Pepe returned from injury into Portugal's central defence and William Carvalho from suspension into their defensive midfield, while Renato Sanches at age 18 became the youngest ever player in a Euro final, taking the honour from Ronaldo.

Nani aimed high early on but France soon gained control, with Antoine Griezmann shooting wide from a tight left angle and then forcing Rui Patricio into a spectacular save with a looping header off Payet's cross.

Ronaldo was struck the left knee while fighting for the ball with Payet in the eighth minute and screamed in pain.

He returned after treatment, then sat down a few minutes later only to come back again with the knee taped. But, after attempting in vain to sprint, finally left in tears on a stretcher amid "Cristiano Ronaldo" chants from the Portugal fans, with Ricardo Quaresma taking his place.

"It was difficult, we lost our main man," Pepe said. "The man who can score at any moment. But God has helped us, we were fighters on the pitch. We swore to win for him and we have won for him."

Both sides needed a few minutes to adjust before France took control again, trying to get through the robust Portugal team which in Ronaldo's absence switched from a 4-1-3-2 formation to 4-1-4-1 with Nani the lone forward.

In the 34th Moussa Sissoko wrong-footed Cedric but aimed into the arms of Patricio in what was the last first-half chance.

Deschamps in the 58th brought on the fast Kingsley Coman for Payet, who was below par as in the semi-final win against Germany, to give Les Bleus some additional speed in a now dour affair.

Griezmann cursed himself for heading inches high completely unmarked off Coman's cross in the 66th.

Portugal, now with Eder for Sanches and Joao Moutinho for Adrien Silva, threatened at last in the 80th, with Hugo Lloris palming away a speculative effort from Nani.

Sissoko was frustrated again in the 84th by a flying save from Patricio but Gignac almost got victory for France in stoppage time only to be denied by the left post after rounding Pepe.

"It is very tough. We lacked a bit of freshness ... but we had good chances and didn't make the most of them," French coach Didier Deschamps said.

"In the end the game has been decided by small margins."

The game headed into extra-time, with Ronaldo finally coming out of the dressing room to encourage his team-mates in the short break and he watched the rest of the game from the bench.

Lloris needed another save to deny Eder's header in the 103rd, and Portugal came even closer in the 108th when Guarreiro hit a free-kick against the bar.

The goal eventually came a minute later when Eder shook off Laurent Koscielny and scored from some 22 metres out. France failed to respond and Ronaldo and company celebrated their biggest moment in football.

Last update: Mon, 11/07/2016 - 04:08
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