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So a competition filled with a wide range of emotions ranging from utter joy to heartbreak and full of surprises has finally come to an end with Portugal lifting the European Cup, beating the hosts and the favorites, France, 1-0 at the Stade de France stadium in Paris on Sunday, 10th July 2016. It more than made amends for the humiliating defeat Portugal suffered at the hands of Greece in the final of 2004, 11 years ago.
Both Portugal and France had booked their tickets to the finals with impressive wins over Wales and Germany respectively. Both games ended with a 2-0 score-line. A towering header from Cristiano Ronaldo and a quick-fire second goal from Nani helped Portugal beat the tournament underdogs Wales whose remarkable journey sadly came to an abrupt end. It was the first time that Portugal had won a match inside 90 minutes in the Euro Cup 2016.
The big winners of the semi-finals were France. Up against the current world champions, Germany, many thought that this is where the hosts’ dreams of reaching the finals would come to an end. However, France made a mockery of the world champions with Antoine Griezmann, arguably the player of the tournament, again putting up a dazzling display with two well-taken goals and setting up a mouth-watering clash with Portugal at the historic Stade de France.
France went into the match on Sunday as clear favorites to claim the trophy at Portugal’s expense, potentially elevating the current crop of players alongside the iconic tournament-winning teams of 1984 and 1998. The two title winning sides were inspired by the likes of Michel Platini and Zinédine Zidane respectively. This particular France team had similarly been inspired by Griezmann, top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals. The entire nation were counting on their golden boy to bring the title home.
However when it mattered the most, both Griezmann and France failed to make the most of it. During a fast-paced, dramatic, passionate and hot-blooded encounter on Sunday, both teams missed a whole host of chances. However, Portugal managed to score one of theirs' in Extra Time to decide the tie. They were fearing the worst when their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was substituted just before half-time due to a knee injury that he suffered due to a clash with France’s Dimitry Payet. However, that didn’t stop him from getting involved as he continued to motivate and shout out words of encouragement from the sidelines despite a heavily strapped leg. His enthusiasm and passion did pay off in the first half of Extra Time when Eder, holding off Laurent Koscielny, made room to get away a low effort from 25 yards out that saw Fernando Santos’ hard-working side make history. The entire stadium was rocking as Portugal held on to lift the trophy defying all the odds.
A similar roar welcomed the Portugal players on to the pitch for the trophy presentation as the closing ceremony was replaced by a spine-tingling rendition of the Portuguese national anthem.