With only your captain as the main attacking threat, Portugal were not tipped by many to lift the Euro 2016 cup at Stade de France. With their prolific marksman stretchered off the pitch following a nasty challenge from Dimitri Payet, all seemed doomed for the Seleccao .
No Ronaldo? No Problem. Portugal exhibit France the result of teamwork
But what unfolded in the aftermath of the substitution of Ronaldo, few would have believed. Portugal dug deep and their grit, determination and sacrifice led them to the road to glory. A feat not even the likes of Luis Figo could accomplish.
The Collective shines through : Portugal an embodiment of Selflessness
At half-time, France had three shots on target, Portugal had none. But Fernando Santos must have been pleased with the way his troops responded to the catastrophe of the first half. As the clock wound down in the second half, Santos grew more and more confident of his side’s chances. Having faced similar situations on more than one occasion in this tournament, they fancied their chances in the penalty shootouts.And in the extra time too, having had an extra 24 hours of rest than their hosts, they were a bit fresher. One could argue that it was a more of a mental thing. But one which cannot be discounted.Hence, as the French grew weary with every passing minute, the Portugal became more and more stronger.
Whenever France tried to break through, everybody in the red shirt tracked back and did their share of dirty work. Renato Sanches, Ricardo Quaresma and even their most dangerous threat going forward, Nani shrugged at the thought of clearing the ball from their own halves. Conversely, it was only Griezmann who was seen running around and chasing the ball and trying to win it back from their oppositions. No matter how hard they tried, the hosts couldn’t break down the resolute defence of their rivals. With Rui Patricio and Pepe in no mood to relent, all the attacking threats came to a void for the Les Blues. Some may argue that the Portuguese had little to offer in the attack more so after what had happened to Ronaldo. But in reality, the Portuguese had rattled the crossbar on more occasion than one. Fine margins separated the two sides. And that’s what counts on big nights like this.
Unknown Eder an epitome of the team spirit
Eder’s substitution in place of Renato Sanches must have been met with disbelief in some corners. With only three goals in his 28 outings with the national teams, he was thrown with a view to hold up the ball, a role he was seen playing to perfection. Asking his teammates to balloon the ball so that he could take it down on his chest,he was doing what his coach had asked for. But what he delivered minutes later left both his country and his nemesis dumbstruck. Struggling for form at Swansea, he has loaned out to Lille in January. He didn’t quite lit up Ligue 1 too but he delivered what his captain had whispered in his ear prior to his coming on the pitch.
He may go on to score many more goals for his country but his fourth goal in the International arena would be the one that would be etched in his memory. Having come from a disadvantaged surroundings growing up, a fact he no longer likes to discuss, the striker is an epitome of his team and the spirit that has driven them to continental glory. The likes of Raphael Guerreiro were snapped by Borussia Dortmund before the continental showpiece had begun and his vicious free kick in the extra time was an evidence of his talent that has led him to Westfalenstadion this summer. The likes of Joao Mario are another example. Having won this match without their talisman, for their talisman, the young turks from the team that was involved in the Under-20’s finals last year showed that the future is bright indeed for the Iberian nation.
While the critics would be scratching their heads to find an explanation and purists shaking their heads for the future of playing style, there will be celebrations unfolding not only in the island of Madeira and the capital city Lisbon, but in every nook and corner of Portugal.