Portugal 1-0 France (AET) – Eder strike earns Portugal maiden win
Much to the surprise and disappointment of many, Portugal – without the injured moth-catcher, Cristiano Ronaldo for 95 of the 120 minutes – won their first ever-major tournament thanks to an extra-time winner by Swansea flop, Eder.
The match, like John Major and Edwina Currie, was a dour affair, which became a common theme for games involving Portugal with the Hungary draw the only exception.
Chances were few and far between with Rui Patricio pulling off a couple of fine saves. The tournament’s top scorer, Antoine Griezmann, headed over from close range during the second half while 78th minute substitute, Andre-Pierre Gignac saw his injury-time effort rebound off Patricio’s near post.
But it was Portugal’s 79th minute sub, Eder who scored the winner with just over ten minutes of extra-time remaining. Not bad for a striker without a goal in 13 appearances for Swansea last season.
Eder and Gignac had contrasting fortunes despite spending the same amount of time on the pitch. The now Lille forward not only scored with a great low-drive but also bought his side some time by earning five free-kicks – more than any other player – around the halfway line as he held the ball up well.
One of France’s more disappointing performers was Paul Pogba who struggled to have an impact in the attacking third. This may have been down to his new role as one of the two central midfielders along with Blaise Matuidi. The opening few games saw a midfield three which included N’Golo Kante but following his suspension, Moussa Sissoko came in with Pogba dropping deeper. This move did bring out the best of Griezmann while Sissoko was arguably man of the match against Portugal.
Sissoko’s performance would have frustrated many a Newcastle fan following his inconsistent outings for the relegated side. He’s likely to get a move away this summer and his value has probably increased by a few million following his efforts in Paris.
The comparison between this final and Newcastle’s last match before they were relegated shows he misplaced more than twice as many passes against Aston Villa and only had two successful take ons compared to his six for France. This is based on normal time to make it a fairer comparison and whilst the argument that he has better players around him is a valid one, the opponents are relative and having weaker players doesn’t justify so many unsuccessful passes or a lack of take ons.
France attempted more than three times as many crosses as Portugal but Pepe and Jose Fonte were more than up to the challenge. The centre-back duo managed 11 out of 12 headed clearances while Portugal blocked nine crosses to France’s zero.
In fact, Portugal had an 86.4% success rate with their clearances compared to France’s 64.3%. Furthermore, the vast majority of Portugal’s clearances took place within their penalty area.
In terms of chances created, France had two and a half times that of Portugal’s six with most of the host’s opportunities coming from the left flank, which was the side Dimitri Payet occupied. Meanwhile, a third of Portugal’s chances were the result of corners taken from the right.
In spite of the statistics, it is only one that matters most and that went Portugal’s way. Their tournament run has been about as inspiring as a stubborn grey cloud but they won’t care as they achieve redemption following the narrow defeat they suffered by Greece when they hosted the 2004 Championships. Let’s just hope Ronaldo doesn’t go on about it…