“Would I like us to be fairly? Sure. However, in between being fairly and being at house, or being ugly and being right here, I favor to be ugly” – Fernando Santos.

No wins within the group stage. Only one victory in common time all through the event. Main for a meagre seventy three minutes in the whole competitors. And but, it led to glory.

Being ugly has by no means been so lovely.

Topped European Champion for the first time in historical past on Sunday, Portugal was derided all through a lot of Euro 2016 for enjoying insipid, unattractive soccer, and for being the beneficiary of excellent fortune that the majority argued ought to solely be reserved for groups that earn it.

Associated: 5 explanation why Portugal gained Euro 2016

The Selecao sat again, soaked up strain, and waited for talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo to encourage them. Such a technique was unbefitting of a champion, they stated, and thus France would have been extra deserving of hoisting the Henri Delaunay Cup on Sunday night in Saint-Denis.

Portugal gained ugly. Say it once more: Portugal gained ugly.

Germany performed some beautiful soccer over the previous month, and was unceremoniously dumped within the semi-finals. France, the vanquished host, scored 5 occasions in its quarter-ultimate contest. That is nothing greater than a footnote within the story now. Even Belgium and Wales offered some attacking aptitude throughout their time at Euro 2016.

All of the whereas, Portugal chugged alongside, doing simply sufficient every step of the best way. An additional-time win right here, a shootout victory there, and earlier than you knew it, two matches separated the Iberian nation from its maiden title.

Supervisor Fernando Santos would not have it some other method.

“I am not apprehensive about being the ugly duckling or somebody who feels sorry for himself,” Santos stated forward of the semi-last towards Wales, because the detractors of his unspectacular aspect turned more and more vocal.

“I am about attending to the ultimate and profitable it.”

How prescient these phrases proved to be.

Associated – Santos praises Portugal: We’re easy as doves, sensible as serpents

In that context, the character of Portugal’s 1-zero conquer France was so absurdly good. This lovely French group, with Paul Pogba‘s silky clean expertise, Dimitri Payet‘s penchant for the spectacular and Antoine Griezmann‘s golden scoring contact, was felled by a set of ugly ducklings that, when introduced collectively, created one thing beautiful.

You need not look too arduous to seek out the sweetness on this Portuguese aspect – and that has nothing to do with Ronaldo’s Greek God-impressed physique.

A sturdy defence anchored by the imperious Pepe – so lengthy demonised because the poster boy for soccer’s most revolting qualities – gained the day; and him, the official Man of the Match award. France created possibilities, positive – Andre-Pierre Gignac will get up in a chilly sweat fascinated with his 92nd-minute alternative that struck the publish for a lot of nights to return – however the Selecao backline showcased its mettle, because it had all through the event.

The gangly Eder, a cumbersome striker deemed ineffective by Swansea Metropolis after failing to attain a single aim within the first half of the 2015-sixteen season, performed the hero by unleashing a fierce low drive within the 109th-minute. The as soon as unloved ahead is now a nationwide icon. If that is not lovely, nothing is.

And all of that, in fact, with out Ronaldo.

The captain, who willed his group to the ultimate with event-saving objectives towards Hungary and a thunderous header towards Wales, waited 12 years for an additional alternative to ship his nation a primary-ever worldwide crown after the heartbreak of Euro 2004.

“I have been on the lookout for this for a very long time,” Ronaldo stated on Sunday. “Since 2004, I’ve requested God for a second probability at this.”

When he lastly obtained there, his involvement was cruelly reduce brief. Stretchered off with a knee damage within the twenty fifth minute, most thought Portugal’s probabilities of capturing the elusive championship disappeared, the probability of a win wisping away with every tear that rolled down Ronaldo’s bronzed cheeks.

Associated: Heartbreaking photographs of Ronaldo’s Euro 2016 last exit

They did not have him on the pitch, however maybe, in a wierd method, what they did get out of him was much more invaluable.

“In halftime, Cristiano had implausible phrases for us. He gave us lots of confidence and stated, ‘Pay attention individuals, I am positive we’ll win, so keep collectively and battle for it,'” proper-again Cedric Soares informed ESPN FC’s Miguel Delaney.

“It was actually unbelievable. I feel all of the group had a implausible angle. And we confirmed tonight if you struggle as one you’re a lot a lot stronger.”

“We misplaced our fundamental man, the person who might rating a aim at any second,” Pepe added. “We stated that we would win it for him.”

That workforce spirit, an unquantifiable trait born of the management offered by each Santos and the maligned Ronaldo, was instrumental. It was becoming that the Actual Madrid megastar emerged from the bowels of the stadium to hitch his supervisor on the touchline within the waning moments of the sport, barking directions, waving his arms furiously and as soon as once more prepared his workforce, this time in an unconventional sense, to victory.

Lacking its greatest participant for ninety five minutes, and confronted with the prospect of a extra gifted opponent that was backed by a partisan crowd of some eighty one,000 supporters, Portugal nonetheless discovered a means.

The Selecao did not need to win? Did not they, although?

It isn’t Portugal’s fault that each Iceland and Croatia flipped the bracket on its head with late objectives of their last group matches, thus making the street to Saint-Denis enviously beneficial.

Nor are you able to blame the Portuguese for Didier Deschamps’ tactical ineptitude. His determination to go away N’Golo Kante on the bench pressured Pogba, his greatest midfielder, to spend a lot of the ultimate languishing within the centre circle, choosing up unfastened balls and profitable tackles as an alternative of flexing his artistic muscle.

Neither Santos or any of his gamers might management that, although they undoubtedly benefited from it.

There is a stench related to the phrase “luck” when utilized to soccer – or any sport, for that matter. Insufficient groups are most frequently described as lucky once they topple favoured foes. However ask any current champion, they usually’ll inform you that a slice of excellent allure right here or there’s inevitably current.

Italy in 2006. Spain in 2010. Germany in 2014. Woman Luck is neutral.

In France, she smiled on the Portuguese, serving to out the place she might. The gamers, and Santos, did the remaining. A collective effort, within the truest sense.

“I’ve all the time stated we’re a group,” Santos pronounced after lifting the trophy.

And at Euro 2016, his was the perfect of all of them.