Neither home field advantage for France nor an early injury to Cristiano Ronaldo were enough to hold Portugal back, and they emerged from the Euro 2016 final triumphant, 1-0 winners in extra time over France. Thanks to Eder's goal in the second half of extra time, Portugal are the champions of Europe, and France are left asking themselves what went wrong.
It was clear very early in the match that it would be played with high energy, with France screaming forward chasing an early goal and Portugal flowing all over the pitch trying to blunt that attack and launch counters of their own. The quality of the play on the field was a little shaky in the opening minutes, but as things started to settle down you could see just how hard both teams were willing to fight to be the ones celebrating at the end of the night.
That fight lead to one poor bit of luck, though -- an eighth minute challenge from Dimitri Payet caught Cristiano Ronaldo awkwardly, leaving the Portuguese star clutching his left knee in pain and clearly in a fair amount of distress. He'd try to run off the pain, but it was clear that Ronaldo was nowhere near 100%, and after coming off twice for treatment he finally had to be stretchered off and out of the match just 25 minutes into the game.
It was a bitter blow for Portugal to lose their biggest star and best player so early, but to their credit they didn't back down for an instant. Ricardo Quaresma came in hoping to make the same kind of impact he's made off the bench in previous Euro matches. Portugal also worked to slow the game back down after losing Ronaldo, knowing that his absence would make it harder to keep pace with France as they'd been trying to early in the match. That tactic worked, although it was just as hard to watch as most of Portugal's play earlier in the tournament -- but it got them to halftime with the score still at 0-0, giving them a chance to readjust and find a way into the match without Ronaldo.
The second half started playing a little bit faster, but it wasn't until France brought Kingsley Coman off the bench that things really started to kick into a higher gear. France finally started to look dangerous in attack again, and that in turn forced Portugal to get aggressive getting forward to try to relieve the pressure and cause some danger to France as well. They also made perhaps the most attacking substitution they've made all tournament long, taking out wonderkid Renato Sanches from midfield and putting on a striker in his place in Eder.
It was another substitute, Andre-Pierre Gignac, who nearly won it for France in second half stoppage time, getting just a moment's freedom in the penalty area by juking Pepe onto the ground, but his shot cracked off the base of the goalpost, and Antoine Griezmann couldn't get to the rebound fast enough to put it away. That meant the match went to extra time, for which Portugal could have been playing ever since Ronaldo was forced out with his injury.
The first half of extra time passed fairly quietly -- there were chances for both teams, but nothing found the back of the net. Portugal had their best chance to score of the match so far when a free kick from Raphael Guerreiro smacked off the bottom of the bar. That wouldn't go in, but only moments later Eder scored one of the best goals of the tournament, hitting a low shot from outside the box that blasted past Hugo Lloris and into the back of the net to give Portugal the lead.
The stadium exploded in shock as the French fans watched their team go behind with so little time left to play, while the Portugal bench exploded in joy. Even an injured Cristiano Ronaldo was on his feet celebrating, and there was no question of just how incredibly important that goal was to the Portuguese players and fans -- and how devastating it was to anyone wearing French colors.
France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Samuel Umtiti, Patrice Evra; Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba; Moussa Sissoko (Anthony Martial 110'), Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet (Kingsley Coman 57'); Olivier Giroud (Andre-Pierre Gignac 78')
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Adrien Silva (Joao Moutinho 66'), Renato Sanches (Eder 79'), Joao Mario; Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo (Ricardo Quaresma 25')
Goal: Eder (109')
Three things we learned
France reacted badly to Ronaldo leaving the match
When Cristiano Ronaldo went down, France had an opportunity to go for the throat. Portugal were scattered and their morale was shaken, and a hard push from France could have taken them further off balance and seen them score a goal. For some reason, though, that push didn't come, and Portugal got the chance they needed to catch their breath and gather themselves. It was a huge wasted opportunity for the French, and despite being an injury that should have helped them, it seemed to suck the energy and momentum out of the hosts instead, as though not facing Ronaldo didn't have the same motivation as otherwise. Letting that opportunity slip by is a mistake France will rue for a long, long time.
Kingsley Coman was almost the perfect substitution
Of course, one change can make all the difference, and for France that was Kingsley Coman. Just 20 years old, he's coming off a fantastic season with Bayern Munich and had been excellent for France earlier in the tournament. When he came on in the second half, he brought a huge spark of energy back into the side and quickly helped drive several attacks that gave France better scoring chances than they'd had all night long. Using Coman's vitality to replace Dimitri Payet, who had been a very low-energy player for most of the match, was absolutely huge for France and instantly made them a much, much more dangerous team. Coman wouldn't prove to be enough for France to win, of course, but that's not his fault -- he came in, did his job, and did it better than any other French player on the day.
Renato Sanches is great, but he's still a teenager
Portugal's Sanches has been one of the unquestioned breakout stars of the tournament, scoring a huge goal for his country against Poland and generally being one of their top performers despite being just 18 years old. In the final, though, there were times when it was obvious just how young he is, looking very much the part of a teenager in a major tournament final -- overawed, nervous and not playing as well as he's capable of.
Sanches was a borderline liability in possession and going forward early in the match, leading Fernando Santos to make him the deepest midfielder on the pitch, swapping places with William Carvalho. That helped re-settle Sanches, and we saw him play better again, more like he had earlier in the tournament -- but there were still a handful of awestruck moments when he just wasn't quite as sharp as we're used to seeing. It was little surprise to see him taken off for an extra attacker late in the second half, and while that's certainly a disappointing end to the tournament for Sanches, it's something he can learn from and use to become an even better player down the line.