Portugal Euro 2016 win was for Cristiano Ronaldo – Pepe

Portugal won the Euro 2016 final against hosts France for the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, said defender Pepe.

Their captain went off on a stretcher after 25 minutes after he was injured by Dimitri Payet’s tackle.

But Portugal went on to win their first major tournament in extra time thanks toEder’s 25-yard strike.

“It was tough to lose our main man, the man who could at any moment score a goal. We said we would win it for him and we managed to do that,” said Pepe.

“He could make the difference but we were warriors on the pitch,” added the defender, who is a team-mate of Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

“There was a lot of suffering, it was a very intense game. We fought very hard. We had to work very hard and be more humble than the other team, that’s the only way to win.

“We left it all out there. We represented Portugal, a beautiful country of immigrants and we represent every one of them. This goes out to them.”

Portugal hero Eder, who came on as a substitute, joined Swansea last summer but moved on to Lille after failing to score in 15 appearances. His strike against France was his first competitive international goal.

Ronaldo had given him some words of encouragement at half-time in extra time, four minutes before his winner.

“Cristiano told me I would score the winning goal – he and all my team-mates,” said the 29-year-old. “He gave me strength and positive energy. A lot of hard work went into it.

“We worked hard from the first minute and right from the beginning of the tournament. We were spectacular.

“We fought with immense strength, we were amazing. I think we deserve this title due to the work we put in, all the players and the staff. Portugal had been wanting this title for so long. This is fantastic and well deserved. Congratulations to every single one of us.”

Portugal, who were 20-1 to win the tournament, only won one of their seven matches in 90 minutes – the 2-0 semi-final win over Wales.

They qualified for the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams having drawn against Iceland 1-1, Austria 0-0 and then Hungary 3-3.

Fernando Santos’ side beat Croatia 1-0 in extra time in the last 16 and Poland on penalties in the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw.

Former England midfielder Danny Murphy, working for BBC Match of the Day as a summariser, said: “It’s the ultimate in football. This is for your country, something very few players have experienced.

“It’s an amazing story for a team who weren’t fancied before or during the tournament. They’ve shown tonight they possess character and quality.

“Ronaldo gives them the icing on the cake, he’s the one who can change the games. Tonight they didn’t need him. People won’t remember he didn’t play much in the final, they’ll remember he was the captain of the team who won their first trophy.

“Isn’t it brilliant to have a hero [Eder] rather than a villain? Someone scoring a wonderful goal in extra time to win a tournament like this compared to someone missing a penalty.”

Ex-England defender Danny Mills said on BBC Radio 5 live: “Ronaldo can now put himself up there with the greats and an international trophy is maybe what is missing from Lionel Messi’s cabinet.

“Now he has eclipsed Messi because he has that trophy.”

Barcelona star Messi quit international football this summer after Argentina lost the Copa America final.

Source: BBC