Cristiano Ronaldo received an awful lot of the credit for Portugal’s unexpected Euro 2016 triumph, despite the fact he only played 25 minutes of the final against France.
Stretchered off following a challenge by Dimitri Payet, the Real Madrid superstar passed the captain’s armband to his former Manchester United teammate Nani.
Portugal’s odds of lifting the trophy lengthened considerably after Ronaldo went off; France, it seemed, were nailed on to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup in front of their expectant home fans at the Stade de France.
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However, Portugal didn’t follow the script. Eder’s goal in the 109th minute earned Fernando Santos’ side a shock win.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, had ensured everyone was talking about him by returning to the touchline in extra-time to help rally his teammate.
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Nani explains what changed when Ronaldo went off
Explaining how Portugal won the match without Ronaldo on the pitch, Nani has revealed what changed when the three-time Ballon d’Or winner went off.
“It was a very strange feeling when Cristiano went off because I was very upset about losing our captain and our best player,” Nani said, in an interview with the Guardian. “But very quickly I had to put my head up and try to help the team, try to give them the confidence and motivation to continue. I had to do my job. I had to do what captains have to do.
“The thing that changed was that I was shouting to my players, to the younger players, giving them motivation. And it was fantastic. We deserved to win and it’s in history now. It’s something we’ll remember for ever. It’s once-in-a-lifetime.”
Nani: It was the best thing of my career
Nani, who joined Valencia after the European Championships, played a more important role than Ronaldo in the final but went under the radar because of his compatriot’s touchline antics.
Nevertheless, the 29-year-old is still delighted with how things panned out - describing that night on July 10 as the best of his career.
“It was the best thing of my career because it was for my country,” Nani added. “Every player wants to win something for his country. It’s amazing how the Portuguese people lived this and the feeling that they gave to us when we got home was incredible.
“We proved a lot of doubters wrong. We drew our three group games but when it mattered the most, we were decisive.”
Did Cristiano Ronaldo get too much praise for Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph? Have your say by leaving a comment below.