The final of Euro 2016 defied expectations and proved to be a dramatic contest decided by a single goal in the second half of extra time, as Portugal’s super-sub Éder shocked France with an improbable goal.
The game looked bleak for Portugal shortly after the opening whistle. A hard tackle by Payet in just the 8th minute of the game sent superstar Cristiano Ronaldo crashing to the ground in pain. Ronaldo eventually rose to his feet, but after a few minutes was forced to call for medical attention. He attempted to play on with his left knee bandaged, but within minutes the end had come. Just 25 minutes into the game, Ronaldo was carried off the pitch in a stretcher.
France turned up the pressure as Portugal struggled to recover from losing its talisman and captain. For Portugal, Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches played an solid game in the midfield, as he and his teammates struggled to contain France’s dangerous offense and hold down the midfield against the likes of Paul Pogba and Matuidi. In what would prove to be a far-sighted offensive substitution, Sanches came off in the 79th minute to make way for eventual goal-scorer Éder.
Opposite Sanches, Bayern's Kingsley Coman joined the action for France in the 58th minute and immediately looked like the best man on the pitch. Coman reinvigorated France’s offense and set up several dangerous attacks, including a perfect cross into the box to Griezmann, whose header floated just over the bar. Portugal was extremely fortunate that France could not translate any of Coman’s four key passes into a goal.
Although France had dominated through regulation time, the chances began to even out as the game wore on. Yet neither team could score the go-ahead goal, each side missing by a hair. A tremendous opportunity by France’s Gignac in the first minute of stoppage time caught the near post and bounced tantalizingly past the open net. And likewise, a beautiful free kick by Portugal’s Raphael in the second period of extra time bounced harmlessly off the crossbar.
Ronaldo himself returned to the pitch as overtime began and could be seen limping along the sidelines shouting furiously to rally his teammates.
The breakthrough for Portugal came at last in the 109th minute of play, as Éder fired off an unlikely shot from well outside France's penalty area. France’s defenders could only look on as the ball found its way past Lloris into the net. Even with Ronaldo hobbled on the sidelines rather than leading on the pitch, Portugal had found a way to win.