It’s the day after the final. Euro 2016 has drawn to a close and the French fairytale lays in ruins at the feet of one man. Eder. The most unlikely hero from the most unfancied result, it’s as if Chico actually did win X-factor.
As has been the case for most of the last fortnight, I was there, in a fan park wanting France to fulfil a journey that seemed more than a quest for footballing victory, it had become a unifying act for a country that has had more than its fair share of woes in the last year.
En route to le fan park, the streets were awash with the tricolore and chanting, it seemed France were already celebrating. At Nice Fan Park, we queued for an hour before the gates opened to watch Griezmann and co. In Paris (trouble aside), the fan park was reportedly full under the watchful gaze of the Eiffel Tower by 5pm (GMT), 90,000 already in attendance with a further 90,000 disappointed as the gates shut. It seemed destined to be theirs.
Yet when the game started, it seemed a switch had been flicked. Gone were the chants, the enthusiasm, the crowd watched with baited breath. France dominated the early exchanges to no avail; an incredible Griezmann header saw Rui Patrico make an even more remarkable save. Payet hacked down Cristiano, tears beginning to form as the 31 year old realised that his Euro dream may be over once more. Chances were few and far between, quality almost none existent as Portugal killed the game of pace and excitement.
To say Portugal had no chances though would be harsh. For all the completely rubbish and terrible football that they may of played last night (and in the tournament as a whole), Portugal engineered good goal scoring opportunities from set pieces, Nani and Joao Mario went close in quick succession. All this was just book ended by cynicism, a lack of ambition and a want to make this ugly.
Eder and the goal. I cannot recall witnessing a reaction. On Match of the Day when a relegation for team gets confirmed because of that 85th minute winner, the camera pans to a crying child in the stands. It was like that, as the young girl next to me, draped in the French flag, wiped the tears from her eyes. It was like I had crashed a wake.
This was the first time at a football game (or in this case watching a game) where I had felt genuinely awkward to be there because the result. So much so I left before the final whistle because this sense of mourning felt like something that I had no right to be a part of. Two weeks of French joy had been reduced to a crying child wiping her eyes with the French flag. It was a far cry from the scenes of Marseille and the euphoria against Germany just 72 hours earlier.
But that is football. In a season where we were given Leicester City, we couldn’t possibly have a second fairytale ending to a campaign. It would have been all too much footballing good will.
With the Euro’s now over, a quick list of heroes is required. Antoine Griezmann is now the poster boy of France who in the 98% of the knockouts was truly inspirational. Everyone now loves Iceland. Everyone now loves the Iceland fans and no one can quite emulate their ‘thunder Viking ooosssh’ clap. Everyone loves the Irish fans whether from Northern or the Republic and everyone sort of thinks it’s hilarious just how bad England were.
I appreciate that is like a quick whip round in a pub but now get me a mojito and a lay down because with over 2100km of travelling and writing under my belt in a fortnight, I am pooped.
Au Revoir until next time!
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog