Agony to ecstasy for Ronaldo's Portugal

Agony to ecstasy for Ronaldo's Portugal

In sport, redemption comes in the strangest of ways. Twelve years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo, a teen-ager of immense talent then, was shedding tears after Portugal were beaten by Greece in the final of Euro 2004. In Paris on Sunday night, he was traversing from moments of agony to hours of ecstasy, his frustration at an ill-timed injury forgotten in the wake of a dream triumph for his country in the final of Euro 2016 against France. A golden generation of Portugal’s players had failed to embrace this success and here was Ronaldo, their link to the past, the shining story of their present and a signpost to the future, kissing a trophy that should at last crown his greatness.

Limited in talent, Portugal needed their captain to show the way, and he did just that in an expanded tournament that will never be counted as a classic. Struggling initially, Ronaldo still netted the goals that kept Portugal in the tournament, though they did not win any of their three group games. Grit, rather than flair, was their calling card as they came through the knockouts and in the final, it was very much this quality that shone forth, especially after Ronaldo limped off by the 25th minute, injured in an unfair challenge that was missed by the referee. Fernando Santos, since taking over as Portugal’s coach in 2014, has worked on shaping a team strong in defence with Ronaldo providing the touch of class upfront. Santos’ unbeaten streak of 13 matches till the final proved his reliance on resilience wasn’t misplaced and the success in the final vindicated his philosophy of winning ugly rather than playing pretty and staying at home. The fall of big guns like Germany, Italy and Spain and the rise of minnows like Iceland and Wales meant Euro 2016 had a touch of unpredictability around it but for overall quality, the 24-team bash left plenty to be desired.

As the month-long contest wound to a close, it also marked the culmination of a tense journey for the hosts on several fronts. Wrestling with security issues after last year’s Paris attacks, France could pat themselves on the back for delivering a
successful event on that count but the balm they were looking for never came, thanks to Eder’s extra-time goal that decided the final. Kept on a leash by the determined Portuguese, France seemed lost for ideas as the game wore on and with their new star Antoine Griezmann unable to find the target, frustration and silver medals were the order of the day. Simple as doves and wise as serpents as Santos put it, Portugal will party on, with Ronaldo carrying his cup of joy.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)