Belfast Telegraph

Portugal ruin French party

France 0-1 Portugal

By Mark Ogden

So the one-man team became European champions, defeating the host nation without the one man they apparently could not win without.

Portugal, for the first time, claimed a major title by defeating France in Paris, silencing the Stade de France with Eder's extra-time goal in a game that had been memorable only for Cristiano Ronaldo's tears after being stretchered off midway through the first-half.

Ronaldo ended the game, with his left knee heavily strapped, prowling the technical area as though he were the Portugal coach.

And 12 years after suffering defeat as a host nation to Greece at Euro 2004, and numerous semi-finals since, Portugal and Ronaldo claimed redemption as France froze on the biggest stage in front of their own supporters.

So the Henri Delaunay Trophy remains in Iberia, with Portugal succeeding back-to-back winners Spain.

Didier Deschamps had complained about his team's schedule ahead of this game - playing their semi-final against Germany on Thursday - insisting that just two full days of recovery was insufficient.

But could the feelgood factor carry Les Bleus over the line against a Portugal team that, for all their inability to put opponents away, had reached this final without losing?

As well as physical and mental fatigue, France also had to shrug off the pressure of emulating the teams of 1984 and 1998, which won the European Championships and World Cup respectively on home soil.

The game was only eight minutes old before it became clear that Ronaldo would not be single-handedly carrying Portugal to victory. Having received the ball, Ronaldo was flattened by a clumsy challenge by Dimitri Payet which went unpunished by referee Mark Clattenburg.

The Portugal captain was clearly in discomfort, rolling on the turf while clutching his left knee. Treatment followed, but Ronaldo could only limp and shuffle around the pitch before going down in tears 10 minutes later. Strapping was applied to his left leg, but it was a futile attempt to keep the 31-year-old on the pitch.

On 24 minutes, Ronaldo signalled to the bench that his game was up. More tears flowed as he was stretchered off to applause from the whole stadium.

With the exception of a Nani volley, from Cedric's pinpoint pass on four minutes, Portugal barely threatened Hugo Lloris in the France goal, but Deschamps' team could not find the breakthrough.

Moussa Sissoko was France's biggest attacking threat in the first-half, with the Newcastle midfielder shooting goalwards on three occasions.

Antoine Griezmann also sent an effort flashing into the side-netting, but Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio was proving to be in fine form.

With Ronaldo gone, Portugal turned to his replacement, Ricardo Quaresma, and Nani to test the French, but chances were thin on the ground.

Portugal, without their talisman and inspiration, were there for the taking, but France appeared cowed by the prospect of going on the front foot and big names like Paul Pogba (left with Patrice Evra) could not rise to the occasion.

Their lack of pace up-front played into Portugal's hands, with Pepe marshalling the defence superbly alongside Jose Fonte, but Deschamps did not gamble on a change until the 57th minute, when he replaced Payet with the pacy Kingsley Coman.

France were crying out for creativity and guile from midfield, but Pogba was quiet and Blaise Matuidi too busy keeping close to Portugal teenager Renato Sanches.

But with Portugal happy to sit back and soak up pressure, this final was drifting into the territory of two teams preparing to take it to penalties.

Had Griezmann headed home from Coman's cross on 65 minutes, the game, and France, would have been transformed, but the Atletico Madrid forward headed over.

Lloris was forced into his first save on 80 minutes when he kept out Quaresma's scissor kick, but the game was destined for extra-time once Andre-Pierre Gignac - on for Olivier Giroud - hit the post.

France continued to struggle in extra-time, though, and it was the Portuguese who showed the greater desire.

Raphael Guerreiro's free-kick rattled Lloris' crossbar on 107 minutes, but the killer blow was landed two minutes later.

Eder, having outmuscled Laurent Koscielny, was given space to shoot by Samuel Umtiti. Twenty yards out, the former Swansea forward beat Lloris with a low right-foot shot into the bottom corner.

France's dream had been extinguished, but Ronaldo's and Portugal's had just become a reality.

FRANCE: Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra, Pogba, Matuidi, Sissoko (Martial 110), Griezmann, Payet (Coman 58), Giroud (Gignac 78)

Goal: none

Subs not used: Jallet, Rami, Kanté, Cabaye, Schneiderlin, Mangala, Mandanda, Digne, Costil.

PORTUGAL: Rui Patrício, Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, W Carvalho, Renato Sanches (Eder 79), Adrien Silva (João Moutinho 66), João Mário, Nani, Ronaldo (Quaresma 25)

Goal: Eder 109

Subs not used: Bruno Alves, R Carvalho, Vieirinha, Lopes, Danilo, André Gomes, Rafa Silva, Eliseu, Eduardo.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (England)

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Moussa Sissoko (France)

Attendance: 75,868

Belfast Telegraph