Portugal wins title without Ronaldo

Portugal wins Euro 2016 in dramatic final against hosting France, without Christiano Ronaldo replaced due to injury

July 11, 2016 – CNN

Sunday saw 3,400 police and gendarmes mobilized on the Champs-Elysees, with 1,400 deployed at the Stade de France and a further 1,900 keeping order at the 90,000 capacity Eiffel Tower fan zone.

Ahead of kick off the competition’s organizers had yet another worry to contend with — an invasion of moths, which visibly distracted referee Mark Clattenburg as he went about his final preparations before the start of the game.

Earlier Paris had been bathed in blistering sunshine and on a warm summer’s evening thousands of French supporters — young and old — had made their way to the Stade de France in northern Paris in the hope that host France would deliver the nation’s third European Championship triumph.

Some were daubed with blue, white and red face paint, others donned the French national team’s replica shirts, many wore crazy wigs and hats, while Tricolor flags were waved with gusto.

They belted out the French national anthem — La Marseillaise — singing “To arms, citizens!” and “Form your battalions,” in a bid to rouse their team ahead of the kickoff.

It seemed to work as France came out bristling with intent, notably when Payet clattered into Ronaldo, who was left writhing in agony. In fairness, Payet won the ball with his tackle, but in the follow through collided with the Portugal captain’s left knee.

Amid the intensity there was skill as well from France, notably when Payet delicately chipped the ball to Griezmann, whose header was superbly tipped over the bar by Patricio.

Just past the quarter hour mark, Ronaldo needed more treatment on his left leg with the captain only returning to the action after the Portuguese medical team applied plenty of strapping to his left knee.

But on 23 minutes Ronaldo went down again and this time referee Clattenburg signaled for a stretcher, with the Portuguese captain distraught and in tears as he was ferried away.

Ricardo Quaresma replaced Ronaldo, but Portugal soon had others things to worry about when Sissoko created some space before blasting a shot that Patricio pushed away.

Soon after Cedric Soares was yellow carded for kneeing Payet in the back.

European governing body UEFA had predicted a global audience of 300 million people would be watching this final, but with Ronaldo off and Portugal concentrating on their defensive duties this showpiece at times was less show and more attrition.

Just before the hour, France coach Deschamps withdrew Payet, replacing him with Kingsley Coman in a bid to break the deadlock.

Payet had been key to France’s progress to the final, but the French forward wasn’t quite on his game and Deschamps didn’t rule out tiredness playing a part in the rather subdued performance he gave.

It was Coman who teed up another chance for Griezmann, with the Atletico Madrid forward going agonizingly close with a header.

Amid the impasse, Sissoko continued to have a barnstorming game, notably tracking a dangerous run from Renato Sanches.

France was soon back on the attack but Patricio again came to his side’s rescue, conjuring up a brilliant one-handed save to deny Oliver Giroud.

That was Giroud’s final part in the proceedings as Deschamps introduced Gignac.

In contrast to Patricio, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had relatively little to do, but as the game edged towards extra time he had to tip away a dangerous cross from Nani and then deal with Quaresma’s hooked shot.

Patricio was soon back in action and once more it was Sissoko providing the threat, launching a shot that the Portuguese goalkeeper flung himself to his right before pushing the ball away.

In stoppage time substitute André-Pierre Gignac came desperately close to snatching the win for France when he bedazzled Pepe, leaving the Portuguese defender on the floor, only to then hit his shot against the post.

During extra time, Portugal began to threaten Lloris’ goal more often and the French goalkeeper was mightily relieved when Guerreiro’s beautifully taken free kick hit the bar.

And then substitute Eder broke free and from just outside the French penalty area he struck a low shot that beat Lloris’ despairing dive.

Portugal had to hold on for another 11 minutes, but it did so to deprive France of a third European Championship triumph.

Cue more tears from Ronaldo — and who can blame him.

 

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