No Portuguese had yet forgotten in 2016 what happened at the European Championship held in their country twelve years earlier. Impossible to forget such a hurtful defeat. Never before had Portugal been so close to achieving a title, nor was it in the years after the edition held in France.
Portugal reached the European Championship without being one of the candidates, despite having Cristiano Ronaldo in his footballing prime, but they ended up being for the French what Greece was for them in 2004. La UEFA completely changed the format and opened the doors to more teams. A total of 24 countries attended the event, where there were five newcomers: Albania, Slovakia, Wales, Iceland and Northern Ireland, and all but the first advanced from the first round.
Portugal had a lot of trouble advancing to the group stage. They barely added three draws in three games, and they qualified thanks to the UEFA modification that allowed the four best third parties to go to the eighth. Cristiano Ronaldo He emerged as the hero of Portugal with his double against Hungary in the last game, where the Iberians were very close to being eliminated.
In the round of 16 they got rid of Croatia in extra time with a late goal from Quaresma and in the quarterfinals they beat Poland on penalties. The only triumph of the Portuguese in the tournament in the regulation 90 minutes came in the semifinals. Fernando Santos’ team met Gareth Bale’s surprising Wales, who was one step away from the final in his first appearance at a European Championship. France was waiting for the final, with everything ready to celebrate in Saint-Denis in front of their fans.
Despite a somewhat hesitant start in terms of the game, in the qualifying rounds ‘Les Bleus’ had shown why they were one of the clear favorites to take the title beyond being the hosts. But Portugal was very aware of the 2004 European Championship. The Portuguese carried out a resistance exercise throughout the tournament that had turned them into a very rocky and mentally strong block. Not even Cristiano’s injury at the start of the game after a clash with Payet made the Portuguese wall shake.
The minutes went by and Portugal was playing with the environmental pressure on France, just as Greece did with them twelve years before. The Gauls took the title in a shot from Gignac that hit the stick just before extra time. In overtime, the Portuguese team took a step forward, taking advantage of France’s fear of losing, and then another unexpected hero from the history of the European Championship appeared.
Just like Panenka, Vilfort, Bierhoff or Charisteas did, Éder scored the winning goal for his team and emerged as the decisive player against all odds. He had barely had prominence throughout the tournament, but he forever entered the history of Portuguese football and that squad, which he finally achieved the first international title for Portugal.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.