Early in the Euro 2016 soccer final, the Portuguese star Ronaldo exited in tears. But if you thought Ronaldo’s tournament and contribution was over you would have been very wrong.
The French were heavily favoured in the final. It would have been glorious for them to win as the host country and for many other reasons. Everyone would have been happy. Portugal of course lost in the final to lowly Greece when they hosted the tournament in 2004. They were heavily favoured with a strong team which included a 21 year old Ronaldo, legend Figo and the excellent Deco, but lost. In fact, until this fateful day Portugal had not beaten France for many years. But sometimes the sporting gods like to write a more interesting story.
Ronaldo, the petulant and near legend superstar who plays his club football for the imperious Real Madrid, only played 20 minutes of the game before succumbing to an injury from a nasty tackle by Payet. For me the tackle was a little cynical and produced negative karma for France. In hockey the knee on knee hit is dangerous and reckless. On replay it was clear that Ronaldo's knee was flexed about 4 inches in the wrong direction. Ouch! Ronaldo wept openly. He bravely tried to continue but had to be taken off on a stretcher in tears.
For the rest of the game the sheer theatre of Ronaldo’s presence was inspiring. Late game he self-appointed himself co-manager and barked out instructions limping around the manager's box with “official” manager Santos. He even at times drifted onto the field. You could feel his passion.
At minute 79 Santos subbed in Eder for the upcoming star Sanches. Eder? I love it when a manager makes a late change in a game that produces results. In this case it made history. Eder was born in Guinea-Bissau. His parents were very poor and unable to care for him. He ended up in Portugal at the age of 3 and grew up at the Lar de Girassol institution near Coimbra. Eder loved football, and finally his talent was recognized and he was allowed to attend a local academy. He has knocked around a few clubs and fought back from serious injury, and now plays in Lille France. Now....this guy is not graceful. But in extra time, he makes a gangly run across the front of the box and unleashes a powerful bending low strike that beats Lloris. The Portuguese go ballistic and Ronaldo is now over the top in intensity.
As the game nears the end Ronaldo excitedly ushers an injured player back onto the pitch because the Portuguese are dangerously down to 10 men. It's a frenzy but Portugal hang on and win 1-0. Ronaldo of course, takes off his shirt.
In the end it was really a beautiful tactical team effort. France could muster no response. Deschamps' managing was poor. Pepe was excellent throughout the tournament. I loved his monumental late game clearing header. Nani seemed reborn and always dangerous. The rest of the Portuguese team played as a well organized unit under Santos' guidance. And of course Ronaldo...who at times...against Hungary and Wales...carried the team on his shoulders and produced brilliant moments.
Ronaldo is often vilified for reasons of his own making. I think it's because he displays ALL his emotions openly and passionately. We would likely and quietly feel and think the same as him under similar circumstances, but keep a lid on it. But now, he has risen to new heights in an already stellar career. Messi who?