Portugal, the Kings of Europe
When the final whistle blew in the Stade de France, we saw a stunning display of raw emotion and pride from the players and the fans themselves. As Portugal relishes with their 1-0 win against France, another memory began to linger onto the field. If you just got into football, this win may not mean as much as it does to the Portuguese fans and the soccer critics all around the world. To truly grasp the gravity of the win, you need to look at the history and journey beyond the 2016 Euros. Once you understand that, you will know that this Euro, that this win, was simply everything.
During 2004 Euro finals at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon, Portugal faced a crushing loss on their home turf to Greece with a single strike from Angelos Charisteas. After the loss, various questions speculated on the overall quality of the team and players. For many critics, Portuguese football was seen as incomplete. Having to only rely on the former-Manchester United star and captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal international football team was in a bit of disarray. But what they do not understand is that mix and match of culture and talent is simply Portuguese football. With the country itself having a blend of Africa, Latin America, and other margins of Europe, Portugal’s soccer identity reflects a multitude of styles. Yes, this may be difficult to culminate an overall personality for the team, but as stated before, that is the Portuguese style.
Now historically, the country itself has only won four Olympic medals in its history and, until the Euros, no international soccer trophies. Even with the best player in the world, the chances for former Euros and World Cups still seemed unattainable. Still, the country continued to rally on and believe in the opportunity of hope. While the group stages of the 2016 Euros seemed to showcase a low level of quality and display from the once prominent 2004 team, Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates continue to muster the necessary courage to play on and move through the group stage. While many critics and judge them for their lack of play and attack, I,personally have to applaud them. For these major tournaments, it is not about winning. Instead, it is about growing and developing after each and every game. While Portugal had a poor performance during the group stages, they were able to recalibrate and move forward all the way to the finals.
During the game, there was much speculation of Portugal pulling any type of miracles. With France having taken down a hefty list of teams, especially the 2014 World Cup champions, it was unlikely that Portugal was going to do much. Even some Portuguese fans questioned whether or not it was possible to win when they saw their captain, Real Madrid star and former Manchester United man Cristiano Ronaldo, brought off the field on the 25th minute because of injury. While all hope may seem as if it were lost, the Portuguese team continued on. Their tactical style of defense and tight knit play truly personified a team giving its all. As France tried to continue to break the defense, off the bench forward Eder was able to provide the final strike to win the international glory for his country.
For the critics who continue to question the outcome of the game, I have to say this; the Portuguese deserved to win Euro 2016. It is not because their current team is so wonderful, but as a recompense for all their great teams of the past.