Portugal won only one match inside 90 minutes in their journey to the final, their 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. They got into the last 16 as one of the best losers. Won against Croatia in extra time and had to go to penalties to win against Poland. Eder ,the match-winner, had only scored 3 goals in his last 28 caps. Such is the cruelty of football or its beauty depending on the how you look at your glass.
Purists vs Pragmatists
So I kinda get the purists point of view when they say they would have loved France t win the tournament. But I would also disagree because they, the purists would have been more excited if Germany were in the final and eventual winners of the tournament. In the final, Portugal did exactly what France did in their semi against Germany; they defended well and as a unit even with Umtiti earning only his second cap at the heart of defense. To me, this is a pragmatic approach. To realize that your opponent is “stronger” and accept that you might not necessarily beat them but you will win the match. It is more practical. So away with purity and let’s just win matches. That’s the ultimate goal of playing football.
Shockingly, they also did not go down without a fight. They toiled to the last sweat,probing when they had the chance to. Despite they defensive discipline they have Griezmann (who missed chances he normally would have slotted in calmly), the post, which saw off Gignac’s effort and Rui Patricio, who kept them in the games after a series of fine saves.
The players appreciated the pep talk given to them by their leader CR7 at halftime and well beyond it. He practically acted as an assistant coach. He most definitely would have loved to contribute more but his injury in the first 5 minutes into the game denied him a chance to make a direct impact in the game.
As Deschamps admitted later on, France will have themselves to blame. They were facing a side that didn’t have their mercurial captian for 80+ minutes. They had chances they couldn’t take and home support that easily acted as the 12th man. In Griezmann, Payet, Koscieny, Giroud and co. , were a squad which played well both individually and as a team. Where individual frailties were exposed, team-ethic prevailed. Heck they even had a player valued at 100 million pounds on the pitch. Yet they failed when it mattered most.
Congrats to Portugal for the win. We now await the crowning of Roro, as we call him here in Kenya, as this year’s Ballon D’ Or winner.