The board was set and the pawns in place for the finals on 10 July 2016.
12 years ago, a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo tearfully watched Greece snatch victory from the home side. However the roles changed, and it was Cristiano Ronaldo with the silver trophy and a sunrise of a smile on his face.
It was a stark contrast to the devastation he had been seen earlier in the night. The game also saw the culmination of the improbable.
A goal from the unlikely hero, Edgar, 11 minutes from the end of extra-time, saw Portugal stun France in their home ground. It was the nation’s first ever senior international title.
It was an unlikely victory for Portugal which had won just one game within 90 minutes throughout the tournament and was placed third in the group phase. To add to its woes, it lost its most valuable player to injury midway through the opening half.
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Portugal was the David against its formidable opponent Goliath. Under the guidance of its coach Fernando Santos, it managed to squeeze past through the knockout rounds, going to extra time thrice and penalties once.
A considerably talented France just could not break through its opponents defenses. There were several close calls for Portuguese team especially when a header from Antoine Griezmann’s was saved by the goalkeeper.
Late in the regulation time, Santos played his master stroke and brought in a natural striker in the form of Eder. 28-year-old picked up the ball with his back to goal 35 yards out.
After dodging Laurent Koscielny, Eder rushed forward unchallenged toward the box before letting loose a low shot from 25 yards out that dodged Hugo Lloris to his near post.
Ronaldo, who was roaring encouragement to his team, leaped in joy, and there was no coming back for France. The Portuguese team, who had lost three semifinals and one final since 2000 finally, became the champions.