“I understood that Eder was the player who had to come on to hold up the ball in attack and create problems for France in the air, When he went on, he said he would score the goal, and HE did.He deserves congratulations. The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful one.”
– FERNANDO SANTOS ON EDER-
Portugal have been crowned the champions of Europe. Whether you like it or not, that’s the bottomline and you’ve got to deal with it. France, who looked the top contender even before the start of the match, failed to live up the expectation and when it mattered the most Eder did the job for the underdogs. The irony is that no one saw it coming with Portugal finishing third in the group, and not winning a single game inside the 90 minutes. Portugal’s fate would have been different had they faced England or France. Sometime destiny takes its sides. This time it was with Ronaldo & Co.
The match started at 00:30 IST amid the prayers and support of a lot of fans and supporters of both the teams. France, being the host country had the support of a humongous crowd and it looked like the hosts would emerge the winners. The first 20 minutes were fought in high intensity, and France clearly had the possession and the ball most of the times. After 25 minutes, came the moment of agony and despair. It was the worse sight for a football fan, one of the best players in the world being carried off the field with the stretcher. French mid-fielder Dmitri Payet’s double challenges on the 31 year old striker Tears could be seen on the faces of Portugal fans, for they believed Ronaldo was the only reason they had the belief Portugal would lift the Euro cup. Then came the anti-climax. Sometimes football takes things away from you, but most of the times football gives you the returns for the hardwork. Portugal held themselves up in the first half, which ended at 0-0. Cometh the second half Portugal regrouped themselves, and dug deep. They didn’t allow France to run away with the honours. They kept French strikers and wingers at bay, Portugal defence were upto the task. Cedric, Raphael, Fonte and Pepe deserves full credit for not letting the French strikeforce overpower them. Particularly Cedric and Pepe were playing with their lives on the line. Ronaldo’s absence would inspire them to play with an extra life. The match moved into extra time, and Santos engaged his sole striker Eder into the pitch. The striker who is with Lille now, was loaned off by Swansea from the Premier League. He was not known for his goalscoring and has a poor record. Then came the inspiring words from Ronaldo to him ” You are the one to score the winning goal in extra time”. Eder muscled past French defender Samuel Umtiti and scored a beautiful goal through a low driving shot post French keeper Hugo Lloris. Cristiano Ronaldo would cry over again, but this time on a positive note. That is the kind of passion he had for his country and how impatiently he was craving for that goal. Finally, he shed his tears for a third time as referee Mark Clattenburg would blow the final whistle.
After Ronaldo got injured, he could have easily applied some painkiller and rested in some restroom. But that’s sometimes what make you a great. After the 90 minutes, Ronaldo had a pep talk with his team mates and kept on inspiring them to hold their heads high and keep fighting. During the extra time he donned himself to virtually be the manager of the team. One of his managing masterclasses that almost gave fruit was sending Raphael Guerrero to take the freekick. It almost was the perfect move as it beat the keeper but crossbar saved France again. After that one could see Ronaldo take charge of the technical area with Santos. Plenty of times, he was reminiscent of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ronaldo can ranked as one of the true greats of the game. With the Euro Cup win, he is no more an international failure. Figo watching the game from the crowd, should have been proud to see Ronaldo lift the trophy. For the last time they did well in Euros, was in 2004 when Figo was the captain. Portuguese legend Eusebio should have been watching from the heavens and blessed the Portugal team. Cristiano Ronaldo now has won Champions League 3 times and now, the most important Euro winners medal. Atleast for now, the question about being the greatest in this era has been answered – Cristiano Ronaldo. Lionel Messi is often seen as his rival when talking about world’s best players. Messi, who has won three champions league titles with Barcelona has failed to repeat that feat for his country Argentina. He retired from international football after his side lost in the Copa America Centenario final against Chile. One thing is for sure – Ronaldo wouldn’t retire, because he knows and understand football is his identity. He would cease to exist without the beautiful game. Cristiano Ronaldo has upgraded his level from ‘Great’ to ‘Greatest’ !