Ronaldo has claimed the game’s major prizes – such as the Champions League with Manchester United and Real Madrid – but a landmark victory with his country has always eluded him.
The greatest disappointment was when, as hosts of Euro 2004, Portugal
were beaten 1-0 by rank outsiders Greece in the final at Lisbon’s famous Stadium of Light.
Portugal also lost in the World Cup semi-finals in 2006, the quarter-finals at Euro 2008 and the semi-finals at Euro 2012 – and it looked like the curse would strike again when Ronaldo lay on the turf distraught after two attempts to play on through the pain.
What a contrasting image it was in the closing seconds of extra time as he virtually took charge of team affairs and light-heartedly bumped into coach Santos, before breaking down in tears when British referee Mark Clattenburg signalled full-time.
Ronaldo, with his knee heavily strapped, then hobbled up the steps to lift the Euro 2016 trophy and fill a gap in his glittering list of honours.
He was then centre stage in the subsequent celebrations, lying on the floor in front of his joyous team-mates.
The 31-year-old’s night started and ended in tears, but this was a journey from agony to ecstasy – and his status as a Portuguese national hero was cemented even further.
Durable Portugal get the job done
Portugal may have been unspectacular winners of an unspectacular Euro 2016 – they won only one game in 90 minutes.
But this tough, resilient, organised team under coach Santos were justified in the wild celebrations that took place in front of their fans at Stade de France after the trophy presentation.
They finished third in their group, edged out of second place by Iceland’s last-minute winner against Austria, a result that led to England’s downfall in the last 16.
Portugal saw off the talented
Croatia in extra time in the last 16, beat Poland on penalties in the quarter-finals and then ended the great Wales adventure with a 2-0 win in the semi-finals.
Every quality that kept them in contention – but never earned the plaudits – was on show here as they inflicted on France what Greece had inflicted on them at Euro 2004.
With goalkeeper Rui Patricio heroic and defenders Pepe and Jose Fonte outstanding, they frustrated France, growing in threat and strength as a largely tedious final ran on.
This was the greatest moment in Portugal’s football history and the celebrations were worthy of the occasion.
Heartbreak for hosts France
France went into this Euro 2016 final backed by a tide of emotion and expectation after
victory against World Cup holders Germany in Thursday’s semi-final in Marseille.
Goalkeeper Lloris, one of France’s senior figures, spoke of how Euro 2016 had helped the population “escape” the suffering of the Paris attacks in November, in which 130 people died and hundreds more were injured.
France’s players have been dignified and carried that burden confidently to reach the final against Portugal, but there was to be no happy conclusion to this campaign as they failed to reproduce the form that beat Germany.
Perhaps that weight was finally too much for them here with the nation behind them. They were unable to take advantage of what should have been a huge lift to their hopes when Ronaldo went off – indeed his departure seemed to effect the hosts more than Portugal.
Gignac almost provided a dramatic winning goal in the final seconds of normal time, but in the final reckoning Didier Deschamps’ side were unable to rise to the occasion and suffered the bitter disappointment of defeat in a major final in their own capital city.
Invasion of the moths
The Stade de France was invaded by moths in the hours before kick-off, making life uncomfortable for fans, players and officials.
Floodlights were left on at the stadium the night before the game, attracting moths who were still there when the teams and supporters arrived.
France coach Deschamps, referee Clattenburg and his team, plus players in the warm-up were under siege, swatting them away while staff in the stadium used brushes to attempt to get rid of the insects.
And in an image that was seen around the world, a moth landed on Ronaldo’s face as he sat in tears on the turf after succumbing to a knee injury only 25 minutes into the Euro 2016 final.
Man of the match – Rui Patricio (Portugal)
Portugal keeper Rui Patricio produced a string of fine saves to frustrate France, with Antoine Griezmann twice thwarted by the Sporting Lisbon player. Olivier Giroud was another who was denied by Patricio as Portugal kept France at bay