For a team that had finished 3rd in their group by drawing all of their first three matches and then reached the final by winning just one knock-out match in regular time, any normal fan would have scoffed at Portugal's chances of Euro 2016. Cristiano Ronaldo and co defied the odds to exactly that.
Portugal reaching the final of the Euro 2016 had many elements of the Argentina team that lost the World Cup final in 2014. They had a global superstar in their ranks, they
But this Portugal team was different. They had their backs to the wall when their talisman and captain Cristiano Ronaldo hobbled off in the first half hour of the game after suffering a nasty injury. The opposition had more fire power
When the chance finally fell to them in the 109th minute, the goal came from a relatively unknown striker called Eder. And Cristiano Ronaldo, who had quite literally taken up the role of the manager after his injury, shed tears of joy and didn't care about his heavily-strapped knee when he jumped onto the pile of his madly-celebrating teammates.
They deservedly collected their first-ever major trophy in their footballing history that night, but detractors and neutrals went home with a bitter taste in their mouth. According to them, Portugal played “boring” football, they were unworthy Champions for being pragmatic. Some called that the tournament's format was wrong in allowing four third-placed teams to qualify for the last-16. But that did not matter a bit for the country or their coach Fernando Santos who said before the match, “Let them continue saying the same thing. That Portugal won without deserving it. I would go home really happy.” And the 61-year old, indeed, had the last laugh.
The system Santos set up with Portugal was totally result-oriented and in order to implement it, he had to bring out every ounce of talent present in his squad. It did not
The progression from
As the first part of his implementation, he realized that players such as Joao Moutinho and Andre Gomes were having a hard time knitting passes between the attack and the
Even the global icon that he is, Cristiano Ronaldo,
Even now, some cry foul that Portugal had been lucky to win the tournament, but is it their luck that France buckled under the weight of expectations in the final? Is it their luck that they played the entire final without their talisman and still won it? Is it their luck that they have been able to beat superior teams such as Croatia and Poland while getting the better of in-form Wales in the semis? We bet that none of these questions will be answered properly by the naysayers.
And most importantly, it must not be forgotten that the Euro Cup has long been a stage for the most unexpected team to take home the title. It has given us an unlikely winner in Czechoslovakia when they beat defending Champions West Germany in 1976. The same could be said about the Denmark team that grabbed the 1992 European Championship right from the hands of Germany while Greece beat Portugal in the final in their own backyard in 2004. When the competition itself has been competitive enough to give use so many underdog triumphs, it can be expected that the unexpected could take home the trophy.