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Euros Classic Moments: France silenced by Swansea flop Eder

It was the summer of 2016 and the hosts France were heavily favoured to win a third European Championship title in the final against Portugal… But Eder had other ideas.

Euro 2016 tends to escape one's memory more than other recent major tournaments, especially from an England perspective after they suffered an embarrassing last 16 exit at the hands of Iceland.

Where Iceland and Wales brought unexpected joy with their progression to the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, the tournament itself had precious few high-scoring thrillers as defensive football prevailed.

It was also the first Euros to be contested by 24 teams, expanding from the previous 16-team format.

A consequence of the additional eight teams was that in the group stage, four of the eight third-placed teams could advance to the knockout stages.

One of the sides to advance after finishing third in their group was Portugal.

Fernando Santos’ side drew each of their three group stage matches – they had to come from behind three times in their final group fixture against Hungary to avoid elimination – to set-up a last 16 tie with Group D winners Croatia.

Credit to their consistency, the Portuguese were level with Croatia after 90 minutes, requiring a Ricardo Quaresma winner late in extra-time to seal their progression.

The draw specialists were at it once again in the quarter-finals against Poland. Renato Sanches’ strike cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s opener and with nothing to split the sides after 120 minutes, Portugal kept their cool and dispatched all five of their spot-kicks to reach back-to-back Euros semi-finals.

Wales awaited them in Lyon, who were buoyed by their shock 3-1 victory over one of the tournament favourites in Belgium.

Somewhat ironically, Portugal had saved their first win inside 90 minutes for this encounter, securing their place in the final in Paris after goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani had broken Welsh hearts.

A meeting with the hosts France awaited them. Portugal’s hopes hinged on Ronaldo’s magic but very few were giving Os Navegadores a chance of lifting their first major trophy.

All eyes on Ronaldo

France may have been on the verge of securing European Championship glory on home soil but the final was all about Ronaldo.

Les Blues were the team of the tournament, dispatching everyone in their path with ease, but Portugal always had a chance of upsetting the odds with Ronaldo in their ranks.

The one blemish on his distinguished career was a trophy with Portugal and Ronaldo was on a mission to avenge his Euro 2004 heartbreak. He knew all too well the feeling of reaching a major final in his home country only to be upstaged by the underdogs, as Greece demonstrated 12 years prior.

This was his moment to cement his status as one of the best there ever was and ever will be.

But football can be cruel. No more than eight minutes into the contest, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner required treatment following a heavy collision with Dimitri Payet, clutching his knee as tears began to stream down his face.

Ronaldo desperately tried to continue, receiving further treatment in the 17th minute as the medical team strapped up his knee but Ronaldo dejectedly dropped to the floor again moments later. Signalling to the bench, he accepted his attempts were futile.

Consoled by his teammates, Ronaldo was stretchered off and departing with him was Portugal’s hopes of prevailing in the contest.

Deprived of their star man, Santos’ side responded valiantly, seemingly desperate to shake off the ‘one-man team’ tag.

Gilt-edged opportunities were few and far between. The conservative approach that had served them so well in getting to the final was on show again.

The Portuguese looked to have done enough to force extra-time when the fourth official held aloft the sign for three additional minutes. Yet their efforts were nearly in vain as André-Pierre Gignac fantastically evaded Pepe’s sliding challenge, cut in onto his right foot and struck the inside of the woodwork.

Normal time concluded and Ronaldo then re-emerged. If he couldn’t impact the game on the pitch, he was certainly going to make his presence felt from the technical area.

Swansea flop to national hero

With Ronaldo frantically waving and gesticulating from the sideline, Portugal seized the initiative in the contest.

Hugo Lloris had little to contend with during regulation time but was called into action in the first half of extra-time to parry Eder’s goalbound header.

The crossbar prevented Portugal from taking the lead with 107 minutes on the clock; Raphael Guerreiro’s sublime free-kick had Lloris beaten before rattling the woodwork. 

The underdogs were beginning to blossom but time was running out. With the match needing a hero, the unlikeliest of figures stepped to the fore.

Escaping the challenge of Laurent Koscielny, Eder found himself with space and time 25-yards out from goal.

Adjusting himself, he attempted an audacious effort, driving the ball low and hard at the French goal. Lloris dived to his right but was powerless to prevent Eder’s sensational strike, the ball rippling the back of the net to send a sea of Portuguese red into raptures.

This was a player who came into the tournament on the back of a campaign where he was labelled “one of the most disappointing transfer flops” in Swansea City’s history by the South Wales Echo.

Signed for £5million from Braga in 2015, the striker had failed to score a competitive goal for the club before being loaned out to Lille for the remainder of the season.

Six goals with the Ligue 1 outfit ensured his place in the Portugal squad but Eder was nothing more than a bit-part player under Santos.

Introduced in the 79th minute of the final for Renato Sanches, nobody envisaged – not least Swansea supporters - that it would be Eder who sealed Portugal’s first major trophy.

Not Ronaldo, not Luis Figo, not Eusebio, not Deco but Eder.

Wheeling away in celebration, he was mobbed by players and coaching staff. Even Ronaldo, who often subjected Eder to the thousand yard stare for his misdemeanours, hobbled towards Portugal’s hero with joyous tears.

Shell-shocked from the setback, France were unable to muster a response. The fairytale ending of lifting the trophy in Saint-Denis had evaporated, ripped from them by a man discarded by Swansea for his inability to find the net.

Eder may not have had the skills or storied club careers of Portugal’s illustrious stars but no one will ever be able to take away that winning moment at the Stade de France.

Euro 2024

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