Sunday, 10 July 2016

Euro 2016: Portugal crowned champions after Cristiano Ronaldo goes off injured

                                           Cristiano Ronaldo lifts the trophy


Stade de France, Paris -Portugal gate-crashed France's Euro 2016 party to win the European Championship for the first time in its history -- and all this without their leading star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid forward had been forced out of the game with a knee injury in the first half, but Portugal regrouped and thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Rui Patricio took the game into extra time before Eder struck with 11 minutes to go.

 

Portugal's win was all the more remarkable given in its previous 10 meetings, France had won all of them.

France had hit the post late on normal time, but so too did Portugal just before Eder's goal when Raphael Guerreiro's exquisite free kick came back off the crossbar and its win was testament to a remarkable group ethic after Ronaldo had gone off.

It had been billed as a contest between the game's two number sevens, Ronaldo and Antoine Greizmann -- except Portugal's captain lasted only until midway through the first half after he was taken off on a stretcher following a robust tackle by Dimitri Payet on eight minutes.

 

Twice Ronaldo tried to hobble back on the pitch before he collapsed, distraught and in tears as he conceded his tournament had come to a premature end.

The huge ovation he was given by the Stade de France crowd -- French and Portuguese fans alike -- must have been scant consolation, given the pivotal role he has played as captain of this side for over a decade since making his international debut as an 18-year-old.

"Terrible to see Cris come off like that," tweeted Ronaldo's Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale and no wonder given many had billed this as the crowning moment of Ronaldo's career as an international player.

 

Twelve years ago he was also left in tears after Euro 2004 host Portugal was surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Greece.

True France might have been favorites to win this final given its home advantage, but this was a real opportunity for Ronaldo to showcase his talents in an international final and add to the countless starring roles he has produced for Real Madrid.

 

In the end given the prodigious efforts of his teammates it didn't matter and Ronaldo, despite his injury, jumped up off the pitch to join in the celebrations.

He might have departed early, but Portugal's fans hadn't forgotten their talisman and as the clock ticked down they chanted his name again and again.

With Ronaldo out of the picture, Portugal needed another hero and that turned out to be their goalkeeper Rui Patricio who throughout the game was consistently on hand to thwart France, notably in saving a couple of fierce shots from Moussa Sissoko, who had an outstanding game.

In stoppage time, Patricio was finally beaten but substitute André-Pierre Gignac's shot hit the post.

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