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Big stars disappoint and more Portugal-France talking points

Plus, Portugal reminiscent of Greece to some degree amid final short on thrills.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, and his teammates celebrate with the trophy.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, and his teammates celebrate with the trophy.
Image: Michael Sohn

1. Cristiano Ronaldo departure a sad sight

CRISTIANO RONALDO TENDS to attract a lot of bile and he doesn’t help himself at times with provocative behaviour — his petty slating of Iceland after they had secured one of the greatest results in their history at Portugal’s expense was a prime example of why the Real Madrid superstar tends to be a quite divisive figure at times.

However, anyone who loves football will have been saddened by the sight of Europe’s greatest player leaving the field prematurely tonight.

Despite a slow start to the tournament where he faced accusations of not being fully fit, Ronaldo has shone brightly in a Portuguese team otherwise lacking star quality.

With three goals and three assists, he has effectively been the difference between Portugal flopping and reaching the final, while he fittingly equalled Michel Platini’s record nine-goal Euros haul after hitting the target against Wales in the semi-finals.

But having just completed another gruelling season in which he scored 51 goals in 48 games at club level and guided Real Madrid to Champions League glory, perhaps it’s no surprise that his body just couldn’t withstand another 90 minutes of football tonight.

2. Portugal reminiscent of Greece to some degree amid final short on thrills

Soccer Euro 2016 Portugal France Source: Thibault Camus

There were more than a few parallels with the Greece 2004 side as Portugal stunned France to claim glory at the Euros.

Ironically, it was against then-hosts Portugal that a Greece team, whose strength was cohesion more so than individual talent, triumphed 12 years ago.

And back then, it was a Portuguese team full of stars such as Luis Figo, Deco and a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.

Many feared the worst for the Portuguese team after their one true superstar and main goal threat Ronaldo went off injured after 25 minutes tonight.

What was left was a mixture of promising youngsters, such as Renato Sanches and João Mário, and solid pros, including Pepe and Rui Patrício.

Against the odds, however, Portugal prevailed against a French side with patently more talented players.

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It’s amazing to think that a team that picked up less points than Ireland in the group stages and looked in serious danger of falling at the first hurdle against Hungary have managed to triumph.

The occasional moment of brilliance from Ronaldo aside, this Portugal side have been short on magic and were rightly called “ugly ducklings” by manager Fernando Santos.

Yet that is not to detract from their achievement — like Greece in ’04, they have played to the maximum of their capabilities and tactically outwitted every side they came up against in the knockout stages.

3. Big stars disappoint as France fall short

Soccer Euro 2016 Portugal France Source: Thanassis Stavrakis

As great a story as it is to see Portugal winning it, there is no escaping the fact that tonight’s game — and the tournament in general — has been somewhat low on quality.

None of France’s stars — Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet — had the required impact tonight.

While the French weren’t their usual clinical selves, they still didn’t really do enough to triumph ultimately.

At times this evening, both sides played with a wariness that gave the game the feel of a match taking place at the end of a long, hard season.

And while many would have assumed France would have the advantage going into extra-time this evening, with the Portuguese playing 120 minutes for the third time in four knockout matches, it didn’t prove to be the case.

Credit must go to Fernando Santos in this regard. He has managed his players extremely well and wisely rotated regularly — of the stars who finished tonight, goalkeeper Rui Patricio was the only one who played every minute of Euro 2016, while every outfield player in the squad featured at least once in the tournament.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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