It was heartbreak for Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud last night as Portugal beat France 1-0 in Paris to win the European Championships.
The Arsenal duo were both selected to start by Didier Deschamps but couldn’t help the class of 2016 emulate the achievements of their predecessors of 1984 and 1998 by winning on home turf.
The hosts, who started the game favourites, enjoyed an early boost when Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off with a knee injury midway through the first half. At least it looked that way on paper.
For all their possession France couldn’t find a way through Portugal’s crowded defence and grew increasingly frustrated as the game wore on. Rui Patricio denied Antoine Griezmann in the first half and then made a smart stop to deny Moussa Sissoko’s long-range effort after the break.
On a night when he was marshalled by the impressive Pepe, Olivier Giroud couldn’t make the most of his one clear-cut chance. His left foot effort was hard and true but Patricio was equal to it. Andre-Pierre Gignac replaced the Arsenal man soon after and should have won the game in stoppage time only for his scuffed effort to hit the post.
Galvanised by the near miss, Portugal looked more confident in extra-time and stretched play courtesy of the running of Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Mario. Finally, in the 109th-minute, substitute Eder broke the deadlock. The former Swansea man shook off Laurent Koscielny, one of France’s best players on the night, before hammering a low drive past Hugo Lloris from 25-yards.
Les Bleus were stunned and despite having 11 minutes to get back into the game couldn’t muster a clear-cut chance. On the touchline Ronaldo’s tears of frustration turned to tears of joy as Mark Clattenburg’s final whistle called time on the tournament. Koscielny hit the turf disconsolate; neither he nor Giroud chose to wear their runners-up medals when presented with them.
A sad end to a positive tournament for both men. They now head off on holiday and will likely miss the start of the new domestic campaign. Get some rest boys, you deserve it.
This evening on Instagram, Koscielny reflected: “It’s obviously with great bitterness that I write to you this evening. I just wanted to say it was a great adventure, a great experience to be part of and we’re proud to be Blue.”
In other news, Aaron Ramsey has been included in UEFA’s team of the tournament for EURO 2016. The Arsenal midfielder scored once and made four assists in five games as Wales reached the semi-final. It’s just a shame he was suspended for the showdown with Portugal.
UEFA team of the tournament EURO 2016 (4-2-3-1): Rui Patrício (Portugal); Joshua Kimmich (Germany), Jérôme Boateng (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Raphaël Guerreiro (Portugal); Toni Kroos (Germany), Joe Allen (Wales); Antoine Griezmann (France), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Dimitri Payet (France); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).