Monday 11 July 2016, 05:23

Eder: Ronaldo told me I would score the winner

Many of the pre-match headlines focussed on Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo heading into the UEFA EURO 2016 final in Paris on Sunday, but it was the unheralded Eder who stole the show.

The Guinea-Bissau born striker netted a 109th-minute winner worthy of the grand occasion, as Portugal secured their greatest triumph at the expense of hosts France.

Eder, a second-half substitute for young star Renato Sanches, muscled clear of marker Laurent Koscielny, before unleashing a fierce low shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris for the only goal of the contest.

And the 28-year-old goalscoring hero revealed Ronaldo, who was forced off with injury midway through the first half, provided words of inspiration prior to making the decisive contribution.

" told me I would score the winning goal for the team," Eder said. "He gave me this strength, this energy and it was vital.”

Eder could barely have been a more unlikely hero. He had played just a handful of minutes throughout the tournament, and boasted a modest record of just three goals in 28 international appearances heading into the tournament decider.

“Ever since Fernando Santos called me up,” said Eder when asked if he ever expected such a big moment to come. “He knows what my capabilities are and so does our group.

"They trust me and I have worked hard to contribute and today it was possible. I'm very happy about what we've achieved.

"We went through a difficult spell after Ronaldo's injury, because he's the best player in the world and an important player for us. But after that he still gave us all his strength and bravery, and we got this important victory, both for him and all of Portugal.

"It was an amazing moment. Our team worked really hard. We knew that the Portuguese people were behind us. The Portuguese people deserve this."

The ugly duckling went and scored. Now he's a beautiful swan.

Eder moved to Portugal as a child and made his name at Braga, though he now plays his club football with, somewhat ironically, French Ligue 1 side Lille.

Coach Santos also revealed Eder’s confidence prior to entering the fray. "When he came on he told me he would score," Santos said. "The ugly duckling went and scored. Now he's a beautiful swan."

Eder’s unexpected star-turn mirrored Portugal’s improbable route to the title. Portugal became the first team to win the European crown after failing to win any of their group matches, and they are also the first team to do so after finishing third in their group.

The victory also secured Portugal a berth at the FIFA Confederations Cup for the first time. They will now line-up at Russia 2017 alongside the hosts, world champions Germany, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and Chile, as well as a yet-to-be-determined African representative.