Euro 2016 Final – France 0-1 Portugal (AET): Éder’s extra-time strike leaves French ruing missed chances

France 0-1 Portugal (AET): Éder's extra-time strike leaves French ruing missed chances

A goal out of seemingly nothing from substitute Éder in the second-half of extra time helped Portugal triumph as Euro 2016 champions. Despite France’s best efforts, they were unable to find the all-important goal for their dominance.

Portugal have won this year’s European Championships with a dramatic 1-0 victory over the host nation, France – courtesy of an extra-time strike from Éder. Despite France’s dominance in the early going, they were unable to find the goal to break the deadlock and Portugal’s grew as the game continued.

A fascinating clash on show

It was always going to be an intriguing battle, for all sorts of reasons. Even the most optimistic of Portuguese fans wouldn’t have expected their side to reach the Euro final – especially after narrowly progressing from their group with three successive draws. Slender victories over Croatia, Poland and Wales followed: meaning that Fernando Santos‘ side had a golden opportunity to seal European glory against all odds in Paris today.

With that in mind, they knew the odds were stacked against them. Playing against the host nation France, who battled hard from the first whistle during their 2-1 victory over Romania, Didier Deschamps‘ men didn’t fall under the pressure – instead embracing it. In particular, the likes of Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud, both proved in their respective ways that you can complete a job effectively without making the most noise.

Tense opening minutes

Portugal’s backline looked initially tentative in possession, which was understandable given the significance of tonight’s occasion. Atletico Madrid‘s Antoine Griezmann, the player of the tournament, looked threatening as he wanted to capitalise on any sloppy pass or sign of hesitation from the Portuguese players. Cedric Soares‘ long ball forward could’ve easily resulted in the final’s first goal – but Nani fired well wide from close-range with Hugo Lloris untested as France aimed to maintain their high spell of pressure in the final third early on.

Dimitri Payet‘s physical challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo brought genuine pain to Portugal’s star man, where it seemed his knee was jarred in the tackle. After some treatment on the touchline, he swiftly came back into the fray but limped gingerly as the match continued.

France come close; Ronaldo suffers injury

Pepe’s slip almost proved costly, as Griezmann was denied his 7th goal of the tournament by an acrobatic save over the crossbar courtesy of Rui Patrício just moments later. Giroud headed goalward from the resulting corner-kick, but the effort was a comfortable stop for the Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper. It was clear, Portugal had started slowly but it was inevitable as the game continued, they’d probably grab a much-needed foothold in the match itself.

Ronaldo’s knee injury wasn’t one that he could just shake off, and despite trying his utmost to stay on the pitch and compete, he had to be stretchered off shortly after the 20 minute mark. In his place, came Ricardo Quaresma – meaning Portugal’s underdog tag just increased further, having to win the tournament without their star man.

Ronaldo (centre) came off twice, received treatment but was unable to continue after his knee injury. | Photo: Getty

Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko was driving forward with the ball at his feet, and looked a troublesome threat when advancing toward the final third – acting as one of the hosts’ creative players with Payet seemingly isolated on the left-hand side. He came close to breaking the deadlock too, swivelling past a challenge in the area before firing goalwards. Patricio was equal to it though, parrying the ball to safety as Portugal suffered another scare.

As the half-time whistle approached, the game was more free-flowing and Portugal started to get more comfortable. They hadn’t tested Lloris at all in the first 45, but considering their slow start, they’d have been satisfied with a goalless scoreline at the interval. For France, Deschamps’ men started better overall but couldn’t make their early dominance count on the scoresheet, which was still empty and waiting for a piece of magic or ingenuity to open up the final as a spectacle many had been expecting.

Griezmann fires wide from a tight angle. | Image: Getty

As the second-half began, proceedings became edgy once more. France were first to the loose balls and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, but Portugal seemed content in letting their opponents keep hold of possession provided they didn’t create too many notable chances.

Griezmann looked sharp on his feet and eager to create something, but the same couldn’t really be said for Payet – who was largely ineffective on the wing as he didn’t get the ball too frequently. Deschamps replaced him with Bayern‘s Kingsley Coman just before the hour mark, not only for his injection of pace but equally, the direct nature of his runs in the final third and his tricky dribbling which is tough to defend against.

His ability to do just that was reiterated minutes after being introduced. Having dribbled past his marker on the far side, he curled an inviting cross goalwards for Griezmann to head from close-range. Unfortunately though, his excellent delivery was headed narrowly over the crossbar by the Atletí man, who knew just how good an opportunity that was to open the scoring.

Nervy as clock ticks down in second 45

Coman was ever-present as his fresh legs were giving Portugal’s backline all sorts of problems – he carved out an opportunity for himself after a neat give-and-go with Giroud, but lacked the final touch to take an effort toward goal. Then, his combination play with Giroud was evident once more as he helped create a promising opportunity – forcing a good stop from Patricio just a few yards out.

That was to be Giroud’s last notable action of the final, as he was replaced by Andre-Pierre Gignac with a real end-to-end feel starting to brew in the closing stages. Renato Sanches, who was effective both in-and-out of possession, came off in place of Éder in an attacking change for Portugal.

Lloris was forced into a dramatic double save before Patricio made a good diving stop to deny Sissoko’s powerful strike as the advancing midfielder looked to score what would’ve been a fantastic solo finish. Legs began to tire and extra water was being taken on-board at the touchline when the ball was out of play or players were receiving treatment for slight knocks, unsurprising given the humid conditions.

Gignac strikes the post – extra time needed

With three minutes of stoppage time to play, Gignac came agonisingly close – weaving his way past the Portugal backline before watching on as his strike hit the post and cannoned away to safety.

Extra-time was no longer a possibility, it was a certainty – 30 extra minutes to separate the two sides. Fouls came thick and fast in extra time, stopping the ebb and flow of the match as neither side looked particularly convincing. Both Blaise Matuidi and Laurent Koscielny were wrongfully booked – the first for an overzealous challenge that he had no control over, Koscielny wrongly adjudged to have handled the ball on the edge of the area.

Raphael Guerreiro struck the crossbar from the resulting free-kick, tensions were continuing to rise – then substitute Éder stung French hopes with a well-taken finish out of seemingly nothing. His blistering run forward was rewarded as he shrugged off Koscielny’s challenge before striking low and hard into the bottom corner, ultimately giving Lloris no chance.

Éder was rewarded for his display after coming off the subs’ bench, with a well-taken goal. | Photo: Getty

Ronaldo was animated on the touchline as the minutes continued to tick by, and Portugal’s tactics to eat up time were well-worked – stifling France and frustrating the likes of Coman and Martial, even with tired legs. Frustration, sadness and a lack of luck from France’s perspective: especially as the host nation. But for the winners, Portugal, they’ve managed to prove critics wrong. In the absence of Ronaldo after his first-half injury, they worked hard as a team and ultimately prevailed.

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