That’s it: Euro 2016 is finally over... and Portugal are the champions! Fernando Santos’s men finished third in the group stages but advanced as one of the four best-placed sides. They won just one of their seven fixtures inside 90 minutes and failed to inspire confidence, but they did it. Somehow, they defied the odds time and time again and they are now the champions of Europe.
In many ways, this summer’s European Championships has been forgettable. The standard of football, particularly amongst the bigger nations, has been poor and there was plenty of defensive football on display throughout the competition. Ultimately, it just hasn’t lived up to the hype and international football fans will be bitterly disappointed at the lack of goals, efforts on target, and general entertainment over the last month.
But now, all eyes turn to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. While qualification for the tournament doesn’t actually get underway until September, Betway are already offering football odds of 20/1 on Portugal to complete a miraculous double. If anyone is capable of shocking the world and producing a performance on the big stage, it is Fernando Santos’s Portugal.
In Sunday’s final, Portugal executed their game plan to perfection, and that was made all the more impressive considering Cristiano Ronaldo’s substitution midway through the first half. The Real Madrid man and Portugal captain suffered an injury whilst clashing with West Ham’s Dimitri Payet and he never managed to shake the niggle off, coming off for treatment twice before calling it a night.
Ronaldo tried a run there but was obviously struggling and waved a hand towards the Portuguese bench. Think his day is done.
Ronaldo tried a run there but was obviously struggling and waved a hand towards the Portuguese bench. Think his day is done.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) July 10, 2016
Ronaldo was Portugal’s inspiration throughout the tournament. While his efforts on the pitch were below par, his leadership qualities and ability to motivate his team-mates were crucial to Portugal’s success. The Portuguese talisman was there to support his compatriots at vital times this summer, including during the penalty shootout against Poland and in the extra-time break during the final.
If nothing else, Ronaldo’s sheer presence was enough to help his team-mates but they didn’t need him on the pitch. In fact, his injury may have helped other players to shine, such as Nani, Renato Sanches and Joao Mario. The entire Portugal squad raised their game and Ronaldo’s replacement Quaresma was sensational, both going forward and with his defensive duties when required. It was a massive team effort.
Once again, Portugal’s victory showed that international football is now much more about the collective than it is about the individuals. Wales showed plenty of passion to reach the semi-finals, Iceland’s team spirit was evident when beating England to reach the quarters, and Portugal won just two matches but showed immense toughness and mental strength to advance through the knockout stages.
After 90 minutes, France and Portugal couldn’t be split. Cue a moment of magic from former Swansea City striker Eder. The Portuguese striker picked the ball up, beat one French defender and unleashed a phenomenal rifled effort into the bottom corner of Hugo Lloris’s goal. It was a strike worthy of winning any game and one that will stay with him forever.
This summer’s tournament probably won’t live long in the memory for most neutrals but these Portuguese heroes will never forget this incredible achievement at the Stade de France. Facing adversity, Fernando Santos’s troops showed that camaraderie and togetherness can outwit individual talent and ‘big name’ status. Can they do it again in the 2018 World Cup in Russia? Only time will tell...