PARIS (Reuters) – Substitute Eder’s thunderous finish deep into extra time secured Portugal’s first European Championship title after they overcame the early loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to snatch a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory over hosts France on Sunday.
Eder picked the perfect moment to score his first competitive goal for his country, marauding forward before letting fly with a bullet shot from 25 meters in the 109th minute.
It was a cruel blow for France, who had dominated the match from and squandered a number of chances, in front of their devastated home support, who arrived at the Stade de France hoping to celebrate a third European crown.
The trophy was lifted by Ronaldo, who broke down in tears at the final whistle but whose game had come to a frustrating end after 24 minutes when he was carried crying from the pitch on a stretcher with a knee injury.
So much of the build-up had focused on Ronaldo and his hopes of crowning a glittering career with the only achievement missing from his CV, a piece of international silverware.
The script had been written for him to produce a performance to match his status as one of the game’s truly great talents, but he had to settle for a back-stage role after Dimitri Payet’s challenge left him in a heap on the floor.
Prior to his departure, it had been a fast-paced start with France’s Moussa Sissoko a bullish presence in midfield, frequently charging through tackles and bursting into the box.
His 34th-minute shot was well-parried by Patricio, but by that point the match had settled into a pattern of France probing and pushing but struggling to break down their more defensively-minded opponents.
Without Ronaldo, Portugal seemed in no hurry to rush the ball forward, happy to see the game descend into a cagey, tactical battle.
They had a scare, however, in the 67th minute when Kingsley Coman’s cross found Antoine Griezmann unmarked six meters from goal, only for the tournament’s top scorer to head a golden opportunity over.
Minutes later, Olivier Giroud, fed by sprightly substitute Coman, forced a diving save from Patricio, who then parried away a pile-driver from Sissoko as France turned the screw.
France’s best chance of the night arrived in stoppage time when substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned his marker inside out before scuffing a shot past the keeper and against the post, with the ball bouncing across the face of goal and then out of harm’s way.
While Portugal continued to sit back in extra time, they had the better chances with Eder’s header parried by Hugo Lloris and Raphael Guerreiro striking the crossbar with a free kick before Eder’s moment of magic.