The glamourous Euro 2016 ended yesterday (July 10, 2016) at the historic Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris, with a thrilling final between the host nation France and Portugal with France being tipped as likely winner of the championship. Based on their impressive record in the tournament, beating Iceland 5-2 in the quarter-final and world champions Germany 2-0 in the Semi-final, not to mention that France were gunning for a third straight major tournament on home soil after winning the 1984 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup in the same Stade de France, the odds were in their favour.
For Portugal, it was an opportunity to end a major tournament draught after losing to Greece in the Euro 2004 final, and a chance to put captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s name on the all-time great list.
The 31-year-old Real Madrid superstar carried his team in the game with fans hoping he will be the one to make the difference in the game.
In the 25th minute, all hopes looked shattered as tearful Ronaldo was taken off on a stretcher due to injury sustained in a 17th minute collision with France’s West Ham United midfielder Dimitri Payet. With Ricardo Quaresma replacing him, it was the first time that Ronaldo has been substituted at a major international tournament since the 2006 World Cup.
Ronaldo was not done with the game yet, as he emerged from the tunnel at the end of 90 minutes, he went on to encourage the Portuguese players urging them to put on more efforts .
As soon as the extra time started, Ronaldo took the position of the Manager, urging and encouraging the players all the way. His encouragement seemed to pay off as Raphael Guerreiro’s free-kick almost brought a goal as he rattled the woodwork. Minutes later, Eder struck a fine winner seconds later, in the 109th minute.
With minutes left from winning the tournament, Ronaldo antics reached its highest. BBC reported that he was offering just as many tactical instructions as Fernando Santos, taking up position alongside him in the technical area and beyond. It came mighty close to undermining the coach’s authority but by this stage anyone of a Portuguese persuasion was past caring.
As the referee blasted the whistle to signal the end of the match, Ronaldo was shedding another round of tears, this time tears of joy.
Ronaldo can now be ranked with the true greats of the game as he has finally added success in international footballl to his numerous accolades in club football with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
– OlalekanOlonilua for Encomium.ng