Well this wasn’t the ending we were expecting.
Portugal, the team that placed 3rd in their group and drew every game but one in their journey to the final, defeated host France in a stunning upset. And they did it without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was injured in the 8th minute and had to be subbed off in the 25th.
The drama started with Ronaldo. The superstar who many felt was the only reason Portugal was even remotely successful, went down in the 8th minute after knocking knees with France’s Dimitri Payet, causing Ronaldo’s knee to unnaturally bend.
After getting up and testing out his knee, Ronaldo went down eight minutes later in tears.
He decided to test out his knee one last time. About seven minutes later, Ronaldo went down and stayed down. Visibly upset, in tears, Ronaldo was stretchered out to an ovation from Portuguese and French fans around the Stade de France.
Losing your captain and best player might cause a team to panic, but instead Portugal grew more defensive and more organized around the ball. This may have been the best strategy anyway, and it resulted in a 0-0 draw at the end of regulation.
As the two teams went to extra time, Ronaldo came out to greet his teammates and get them motivated for what would be the most important half hour in Portuguese soccer history.
After having been the more defensive side the entire match, Portugese substitute Eder struck in the 109th minute to put them ahead 1-0 and shock the French crowd.
As the clock ticked down, the dream became a reality as Portugal won in a completely unexpected fashion. A team for years criticized for being overly reliant on Ronaldo had to power through a tournament final without him. Not only that, but they had to do it against France, the tournament hosts and overwhelming favorites. It wasn’t always the prettiest of tournaments, but Portugal finally have their trophy.