Finally the wait is over for Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal as they lifted their first ever international trophy by winning Euro 2016.
It is Selecao’s second final in 12 years. In Euro 2004 they lost to minnows Greece in the final at home. Despite the talent of a “golden generation” including Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and a young Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004, it all ended in tears in Lisbon.
Selecao had not beaten France since 1975 and had never claimed an international trophy, so many Portuguese people expected a similar story this time. But instead, they saw a different ending.
Once one of the world’s most powerful countries with colonies in Africa and Asian nations and discoveries at sea, Portugal had built a colonial empire centuries back.The European cup gave the Portuguese people something to smile after long years of struggle facing economic slowdown in the present world and related issues.
On Sunday, it looked like all the aspirations of Ronaldo and Portugal would be shattered when he was taken off on a stretcher after 25 minutes following two attempts to battle through a knee injury sustained in seventh-minute.
But Ronaldo played a captains’ role from the sidelines by giving instructions to his team-mates, demanding more noise from the Portuguese supporters and in the unorthodox role of assistant coach alongside coach Fernando Santos.
Portuguese right-back Cedric Soares revealed that Ronaldo had given an inspirational speech to the players during the interval.
“At half-time, Cristiano had fantastic words for us,” he said. “He gave us a lot of confidence and said ‘listen people, I’m sure we will win, so stay together and fight for it.’ “It was really unbelievable. I think all the team had a fantastic attitude. And we showed tonight when you fight as one you are much much stronger.
“He was fantastic. His attitude was unbelievable. He always had a lot of motivational words and all the team of course reacted to them, so it was very good. He had fantastic words for each player in each moment of the game.”
Ronaldo’s form in the tournament was questioned by many. He fell into controversy by criticizing Iceland team’s celebrations after they played a draw against Portugal. After that he threw away a journalist’s mike in to the river. Despite all these controversies he produced stunning performance in the last match of group stage in the semi-final.
On Sunday, two times Ronaldo broke into tears. First when he was limping off and the second time it was tears of joy of a player who gave up everything to win matches for his country and club.
Many have been critical of Portugal’s pragmatic play at Euro 2016 after coach Santos’ side emerged from their group without a single win and ended the competition with only one victory in the 90 minutes (having beaten Croatia and France in extra time and Poland on penalties).
But the king of Madeira deserves an international glory for his hard-work and dedication to the beautiful game.
Ronaldo can now be ranked with the some of the true greats of the game. He has finally added success in the international arena, with a Euro 2016 win to add to his accolades and honours with Manchester United and Real Madrid.