Monday, July 11, 2016

Portuguese tears... of joy!

It is only grudgingly I congratulate Portugal and their fans for their in all manners surprising victory against France in the final of the Euro 2016.
Of course a team that wins a tournament of 24 teams, over seven matches, are to be congratulated and shown respect for their achievement, but indeed Portugal's way to the title was less than glamorous. The only reason they got past 1st round as best 3rd placed team (behind unglamorous Hungary and Iceland) was because there are now 24 teams in the tournament. In the last-16 they won a historically boring match against Croatia (first match without shots on target), and only beat Poland on penalties in the quarterfinals. Indeed, their defeat of Wales in the semifinals was their first (and only) regular victory of the tournament.
The final was an enormous disappointment: the first ever 0-0 in 90 minutes of a Euro final. France started well, but were a disappointment of nerves and lack of pace in front of a rather lame home crowd.
With an early injury for Cristiano Ronaldo everything seemed to be stacked against Portugal, but two  things happened: the team seemed better organized without Ronaldo, and manager Fernando Santos made some brilliant choices to re-adapt his team during the match. Eder, who entered late in the second half instead of the young Renato Sanches (youngest player ever to play a final), scored an excellent winner in the second half of extra time as the match was seemingly on the way to penalty kicks.
Cristiano Ronaldo cried when he had to leave the pitch, but when the match ended he joined the rest of his team in tears of joy for a victory as unlikely as the one suffered by Portugal itself in the final of Euro 2004.
Congratulations, grudgingly, to Portugal.

No comments: