Rope-a-dope Portugal stun France

There’s a rather large enclave of Portuguese in my neck of the woods – so big in fact, that the area goes by the nickname ‘Little Portugal’.

Last night, Little Portugal exploded. It started with a few fireworks and by 2am it felt like all 27,000 of them were tooting their car horns inside my bedroom.

Even as my alarm went off this morning – something of a kick in the bollocks given I’ve barely slept – I could still hear them. Now usually I’d be properly fucked off, but I guess when your country secures a first ever international tournament you’re entitled to go wild. So, congratulations Portugal. Enjoy being champions of Europe.

As for the game itself, it was a horribly turgid affair. Eder’s tasty extra-time winner aside, it was almost entirely devoid of any excitement.

Obviously, the major talking point is the injury to Ronaldo that forced him off in the first half. I have to say I felt sorry for him as he initially burst into tears, but that early pang of pity sort of dissipated as he gradually wrestled attention from the pitch to himself.

Even his manager Fernando Santos gave up restraining him as he took it upon himself to prowl the touchline, barking orders and encouragement. Fair play to the Madrid striker, it worked. His teammates delivered an incredibly gritty display to frustrate France time and time again. Pepe was tremendous at the back, Joao Mario was everywhere and Nani delivered a mature performance the likes of which I thought he was incapable of mustering.

In response, France panicked. They had loads of the ball but they lacked pace and cutting edge in the final third. It was all a bit Arsenal really.

Moussa Sissoko did his best to inject energy, but his teammates couldn’t match his drive. Indeed, given the proliferation of creative players – Griezmann, Payet, Pogba, Coman – it was farcical that Les Bleus barely mustered a chance inside 90 minutes.

Olivier Giroud, kept quiet from the off, did finally work some space late on but his one clear-cut effort was beaten away by the impressive Rui Patricio. Andre-Pierre Gignac replaced the Arsenal man with 12 minutes remaining and nearly won it deep into stoppage time of normal time, only for his shot to trickle off the post to safety.

By the time Portugal scored on 109 minutes they looked the better side. Nani and Quaresma had come close and Guerreiro had just hit the bar. That said, nobody really expected a guy who spent the first half of last season at Swansea to come off the bench and drive home the winner. Incr-EDER-ble.

Not even sorry.

There were more tears from Ronaldo, this time of joy, and after a bit more huffing and puffing from Didier Deschamps’ side it was all over. In front of a stunned crowd at the Stade de France, Laurent Koscielny, a chap who often keeps his emotions in check, looked absolutely distraught. It was harsh on him as he’d been tremendous again.

I turned off the coverage as soon as Ronaldo decided it was time to take his shirt off. We get it mate, you’ve got big muscles.

So that’s it. The European Championships are over for another four years and we can now turn our attention to more important matters – namely, freaking out about whether Arsenal are going to buy a striker before the transfer window closes. Yay.

The other talking point this morning is Arsene Wenger’s comments about the vacant England manager’s job. Speaking on French TV, the 66-year-old remarked:

“Could I manage England? Why not? I would never rule that out, but I am happy and focused in club football. I have one more year to go with Arsenal and I have been with them for a long time. I have always respected all my contracts and will continue to do that. What will I do after that? Honestly, I don’t know.

“England is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when England went out against Iceland. I couldn’t believe it. But when you watched the game you could sense, after 60 minutes, that the worst could happen. Did they panic or were they tired? I don’t know, but England couldn’t find an answer to what Iceland posed.”

Make of that what you will. Personally, I think he’s just being polite.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. I have to get to the day job. Have a swell Monday.


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