France falter as Eder wonder goal earns Portugal Euro title
Cristiano Ronaldo’s tears turned into unbounded joy as Portugal secured their first ever trophy, with Eder’s stunning extra-time strike seeing off Euro 2016 hosts France.
The substitute struck the historic blow after 109 minutes, beating Hugo Lloris from distance as Swansea fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief given his underwhelming time in Wales.
This final was a fitting an end to Euro 2016 – a cagey tournament punctuated by moments of magic.
Top scorer Antoine Griezmann twice came close to producing his own during the 90 minutes and substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac saw a stoppage-time effort hit the post after Ricardo Quaresma tested Lloris with an acrobatic strike.
Portugal upped the ante in extra-time and Raphael Guerreiro’s free-kick rattled the crossbar, before Eder’s moment of magic.
Holding off Laurent Koscielny, the substitute made room to get away a low effort from 25 yards out that saw Fernando Santos’ hard-working side make history.
A similar roar welcomed the players onto the field – so too a swarm of moths – as a grandiose closing ceremony was replaced by spine-tingling renditions of the national anthems at the Stade de France.
That passion and intensity carried onto the field as the match started at a ferocious tempo, with Nani first to threaten after collecting a clever ball from right-back Cedric.
It was a rare early voyage forwards by the Portuguese, with Griezmann forcing an exceptional one-handed save from Rui Patricio after 10 minutes.
Dimitri Payet’s clipped cross was met by a fine leap and instinctive header from the tournament’s top scorer, bringing a save and corner from which Olivier Giroud headed at the Portugal goalkeeper.
More worrying for Santos’ men was the sight of star turn Ronaldo on the deck, fighting back the tears. An eighth-minute challenge from Payet was missed by referee Mark Clattenburg and left the forward in serious discomfort, with initial treatment and more 10 minutes later allowing him to gingerly return to action.
When play resumed Moussa Sissoko, belying last season’s hit-and-miss form with relegated Newcastle, burst forward and saw an effort deflect just off target, but then the focus was back on Ronaldo.
Clattenburg called for a stretcher, with all four corners of the ground uniting to give the Portugal captain a standing ovation as his night was brought to a premature end.
Sissoko stung Patricio’s palms after a fine turn but play was becoming more tentative, with Jose Fonte nodding over before half-time.
Paul Pogba tried to light up the occasion with an ambitious effort and Griezmann tried his luck from an acute angle before Didier Deschamps looked for a spark by bringing Kingsley Coman on for Payet – a figure whose popularity in Portugal was made clear by their vociferous support.
There were some disgruntled home fans, too, but the replacement was soon threatening, sending over a cross from the left that Griezmann headed just over from close range.
The 20-year-old substitute was proving a handful and added extra impetus to France’s attack, with Giroud forcing Patricio into a save as the match entered the final 15 minutes.
Portugal were having chances of their own and Lloris could only claw a threatening Nani cross into the path of Quaresma, whose acrobatic follow-up was going in until the France captain’s intervention.
Sissoko’s thumping strike forced Patricio into action once again, with Gignac turning Pepe in stoppage time to have Portuguese hearts in their mouths.
The substitute’s scuffed effort hit the post and proved the last chance of note as the match entered extra time.
Ronaldo emerged with his left knee heavily strapped to help with the pep talk, with Pepe - unaware the offside flag was raised - heading just wide five minutes after play resumed.
Lloris denied Eder’s header as the first period of extra time ended and was relieved to see Guerreiro’s free-kick rattle back off his crossbar.
Portugal would strike a knock-out blow moments later, though. Eder shook off Koscielny’s attention to send a low strike out of Lloris’ reach and into the bottom corner.
The Portuguese contingent went wild and, after some nervy moments, were celebrating again, having made history in France.