Portugal’s victory in Euro 2016 proved that the whole is greater than the one!

Published: July 11, 2016
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As captain, Ronaldo was given back the armband as he lifted the trophy at the Stade de France PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The final of the European Championships took place in Paris, France, with Ronaldo’s Portugal against a resolute French team that had thumped Iceland in the quarter finals and edged past Germany in the semis. France were the absolute favourites to win the cup; indeed, it hadn’t been expected that Portugal would even reach the final.

History was on Didier Deschamp’s side as Portugal had never beaten France in a major tournament and had only beaten France five times in 24 meetings, with a massive defeats-total of 19 games. However, the Portuguese were slightly more rested than the hosts, and would have the edge if it came to extra time.

Earlier on, it looked like it would be a sad night for the visitors as their captain Cristiano Ronaldo went off in the first half due to a rash challenge from Dimitri Payet, which dimmed the occasion considerably.

Dimitri Payet’s tackle on the Real Madrid man was forceful but the Frenchman won the ball.
Photo: BPI Kieran McManus

Cristiano Ronaldo departed the Euro 2016 final with knee injury, shedding tears after suffering the knock.
Photo: BPI Kieran McManus

It was a powerful moment, as the tears of one of the best players in the world fell on the Parisian pitch. Cristiano found himself being stretchered off, his team mates watching in despair and disbelief.

The former Manchester United man screamed in agony after the challenge from Payet that ended his night
Photo: AFP/ Getty

Ronaldo was distraught as the Portugal medical team helped him off the pitch and out of the game
Photo: Getty

The Portugal captain was carried off on a stretcher in the 24th minute, his Euro 2016 final over
Photo: EPA

Strangely, France, having dominated for the first 30 minutes, lost their rhythm after Ronaldo went off. The unity of Portugal showed through as they defended with all their might, surviving some early scares in the form of Antoine Griezmann and Moussa Sissoko. Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio was also in excellent form, saving some long range shots.

France’s Moussa Sissoko, center, challenges for the ball with Portugal’s Cedric, right and Portugal’s William Carvalho, during the Euro 2016 final soccer match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France.
Photo: AP / Thanassis Stavrakis

Portugal had had an extra day of rest than the hosts and this showed as the game went on 0-0 to extra time. Fatigue was visible and the French midfield seemed to have lost their will to push forward.  Portuguese captain Nani rallied his team around him as it seemed the match would go on to penalties. With an injured Cristiano on the side-lines acting as assistant manager, Portugal struck the passes together with relative ease.

A rueful Ronaldo puts the captain’s armband on Nani as it becomes clear the Real man can’t go on.
Photo: Reuters

A heart-stopping moment for Portugal occurred when French substitute Gignac struck the goalpost. Portugal were on the edge of the cliff with a bit of luck on their side. Soon afterwards Portuguese left back and Raphael stood over a wrongly given free kick. He muttered a prayer, hoped that this was his moment, and struck the goalpost with a thunderous free kick. Both sides had come as close as they could without hitting the net.

France’s Andre Pierre Gignac shoots past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, second from right, to hit the goal post during the Euro 2016 final soccer match.
Photo: AP / Michael Sohn

Raphael Guerreiro hit the crossbar with a free-kick in extra-time, but it was Eder who finally struck the decisive blow, arrowing a low shot beyond Lloris.
Photo: goal.com

Ronaldo, with his leg in bandages, stood alongside his manager and shouted instructions and moral support to the Portuguese players. The tension was visible on his face. He was limping and it was obviously causing him pain to walk but he seemed to ignore it, looking dedicated to the cause.

The knee injury did not stop the skipper from getting up off his seat to encourage the Portugal team
Photo: Reuters

Midfielder Eder collected the ball and galloped infield to take a shot. From 25 yards out, few could believe that he could beat the giant of a keeper, Hugo Lloris; however, his low drive did just that.

Portugal went on to win their first major international trophy, and this was an even bigger feat as they did it away from home and partially without their captain, as he was injured. The French side had to swallow another defeat in front of their home fans.

Portugal hadn’t outplayed the French. They had used the right tactics at the right times, not panicking when their star forward left the pitch.  Playing on the counter attack was a bold move by their manager, Fernando Santos, and it was this that led to the opening goal.

Fernando Santos
Photo: vavel.com

He trusted in his young midfield, Fernando Santos, and Sanches, and the pair was sound defensively and looked dangerous on the attack. However, it’s undeniable that Portugal could not have won without their solid goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, who produced some amazing saves against French. In the final, Portugal proved that the whole is greater than the one.

After the final whistle Ronaldo’s knee injury seemed to slip into insignificance as he celebrated the win.
Photo: EPA

By the end of the night the agony had been exchanged for ecstasy as Portugal won 1-0 in extra time
Photo: Reuters

As a football fan watching this final, I have to add that the inner strength of Portugal was amazing. When their captain went off with the tears falling off and sobs racking his body, the inner urge to give up, to lose hope would have been colossal. However, they did not panic; they stuck together and more they stayed disciplined, especially towards France’s Dimitri Payet, whose tackle resulted in the injury. Not a single player was sent off and this was commendable. Furthermore, as they were playing in France’s own backyard, the hostility from the French fans was also present. A strong team kept their heads and their wits, believed and eventually triumphed.

Even though Portugal hadn’t lost a single match in the tournament, they hadn’t been favourites, due to the unattractive brand of football they played. They never looked like winning, though they always managed it in the end. As their manager used to say after matches, ‘it wasn’t always pretty but they got the job done’.

Abdullah Ahmed

Abdullah Ahmed

The author is a ninth grade student at C.A.S School (Centre of advanced studies. He is a Karachiite and a huge football fan - supports Argentina and Barcelona.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.