Team Spirit Wins Out In The End, Fittingly
We’ll cover Cristiano Ronaldo in a bit more detail later, but his early departure allowed this Portugal side to show the type of spirit which came to define this tournament, and indeed much of football in 2016.
If the likes of Leicester City, Iceland or Wales taught us anything, it is that odds can be defied by teams who stick to their systems and have both a consistency of selection and approach.
Portugal – aided by fantastic performances from Pepe and in particular the excellent Jose Fonte, who can’t be too far off a place in the team of the tournament – were built on solid foundations, and although you probably weren’t too enamoured by their style of football throughout the tournament, what you can’t criticise them for is a lack of heart or desire.
They simply wouldn’t be beaten, and as European champions go they might not forever be remembered, but they should certainly be respected.
Ronaldo’s Dramatic Departure Was One Of Sport’s Sad Stories, Then It Became A Happy One
A reminder that sport isn’t perfect, then.
The early challenge from Dimitri Payet on Ronaldo wasn’t all that malicious, but it was clumsy, and the damage that it did to the Portugal captain robbed us of his influence on this game, and robbed his team of what pretty much all of their gameplan would have been.
‘Give it to Ronaldo’ was no longer an option once the superstar had to admit defeat in his battle to stay on the pitch, and whatever your opinion of a man who clearly loves the limelight is, the game became all the poorer without his fingerprints upon it.
The pre-match predictions of a shootout between Antoine Griezmann and Ronaldo might not have come true in the end, but it was desperately sad that it wasn’t even allowed to.
The sight of Ronaldo in tears was a sad one to see, but his teammates ensured that he got to lift a trophy he must have thought had escaped his grasp when he was stretchered off.
Replacement Eder delivered the telling blow, remarkably, and served a reminder that whilst sport isn’t perfect, it can certainly be dramatic.
Moussa Sissoko Certainly Can Pick His Moments
On a pitch decorated with players who ply their trade at the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus, it was a man who – for the moment at least – is set to start the new season in the Championship who shone brightest in the first half.
Moussa Sissoko picked a good time for ‘Good Sissoko’ to come out, with the midfielder’s strong, direct and driving runs from midfield shaping a lot of what the first 45 minutes were about. Newcastle fans were bound to recognise the performance because he did offer it for them on occasion, but those occasions could be counted in the fingers of one hand.
Here, at times you’d have thought that it was he who was the £100m player and not Paul Pogba, and with surely little chance of him turning out in the black and white stripes against the likes of Burton Albion, Rotherham United and Preston North End, you can be certain that Mike Ashley was spending the evening with pound signs in his eyes.
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