EURO Rewind: Portugal win first title in 2016 thanks to an unexpected hero

Portugal won their first European title in France in 2016
Portugal won their first European title in France in 2016AFP
The 17th European Championships kick off in Germany on June 14th. Until then, Flashscore brings you some of the highlights from the Euros' rich history.

In recent years, France have been considered among the big favourites to win international trophies, and when the 2016 European Championship final tournament was staged on home soil, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone betting against Les Bleus.

What's more, if anyone wanted to have a punt, they certainly wouldn't have picked Portugal, or at least not after the group stage was over.

Led by a Cristiano Ronaldo at the peak of his career, the Portuguese only made it to the knockout stage because the 2016 edition was the first to field 24 teams in the first phase and as such, four third-placed teams advanced to the last 16.

"Small mentality, that's why they won't achieve anything," Ronaldo said nervously after Iceland celebrated wildly after drawing 1-1 with the Portuguese in their group opener.

A missed penalty by Ronaldo in the next match with Austria saw the Portuguese end that game 0-0, only for one of the thrillers of the tournament, a 3-3 draw with Hungary, to send them into third place in the group.

However, it was all for the best. A better finish would have sent Portugal into a section of the draw that included France, England, Spain and Italy, while from third place they had a route where Croatia and Belgium were the most dangerous opponents. The latter would crash out to Wales (3-1) in the quarter-finals.

Just one win in regular time

One of the curiosities of the 2016 edition was that Portugal managed to win the trophy after recording just one win in regulation time.

After three draws in the group, the Portuguese beat Croatia in the round of 16 thanks to an extra-time goal, beat Poland in the quarter-finals on penalties (1-1, 5-3 on penalties) and then beat Wales 2-0 in the semi-finals.

And the final was won thanks to a goal scored again in extra time, the first time in the history of the competition that the final of the Euros was goalless after 90 minutes.

An unlikely hero

In contrast to Portugal, France's national team only recorded one draw until the final of the competition, but the French juggernaut wasn't in perfect order from the start either.

Didier Deschamps's side beat Romania in their opening match, thanks to a late Dimitri Payet goal (2-1) then went on to beat Albania 2-0, both goals coming after the 90th minute. They then drew with Switzerland, 0-0, on the way to top spot in the group.

Ireland (2-1), Iceland (5-2) and Germany (2-0) were the victims of the French en route to the final and they went into the decider as heavy favourites.

That status was reinforced after 25 minutes when Portugal were to lose their best player. Injured as early as the 10th minute, Ronaldo gritted his teeth for another 15 minutes before leaving the pitch in tears.

But the Portugal captain was to become an assistant to coach Fernando Santos, with TV footage often showing him on the touchline giving instructions to teammates. At the interval before extra time, he was talking to each player to motivate them further.

The motivational speeches paid off and Eder was to become the unlikely hero of an entire country.

Introduced ten minutes before the end of normal time, the Guinea-Bissau-born player had not had a great season. Transferred from Swansea, Eder failed to impress and was loaned out to Lille, where he scored six goals in 13 games and narrowly made the squad for the Euros.

With just eight minutes left in the second half of extra time of the final, he popped up in the opposition half without many teammates to support him but managed to shake off Laurent Koscielny before shooting from about 25 yards. Hugo Lloris's desperate dive was to no avail and the Portuguese were to win their first major title in their history thanks to a goal that came from where they least expected it.

"Before extra time, Cristiano Ronaldo told me I was going to score the winning goal," said Eder.

"It gave me strength and positive energy."

Team of the Tournament

Antoine Griezmann ended the tournament as the top scorer, scoring six goals for France. But the 25-year-old was not exactly happy when he received the Golden Boot after the final, telling that the tournament was "cruel and magnificent at the same time."

Along with the trophy, the Atletico Madrid striker was also named the tournament's best player.

Goalkeeper: Rui Patricio (Portugal)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Germany), Joshua Kimmich (Germany), Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal), Pepe (Portugal)

Midfielders: Antoine Griezmann (France), Dimitri Payet (France), Toni Kroos (Germany), Joe Allen (Wales), Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)


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