Portugal prove they can flourish without Ronaldo on the pitch

Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:36am EDT
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By Brian Homewood

PARIS (Reuters) - Portugal proved they can flourish without their talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, at least on the pitch, in beating France to win Euro 2016.

Coach Fernando Santos has been trying to reduce their dependency on Ronaldo and his team's ability to live without their alltime leading scorer and captain faced its ultimate test when he went off injured after 25 minutes of Sunday's final.

They passed with flying colours.

Relieved of any obligation to pass to Ronaldo every time he was free or allow him to take free kicks, Portugal's players appeared less inhibited without him on the pitch.

Raphael Guerreiro, barred from taking free kicks when Ronaldo is playing, showed his abilities when he curled a sublime effort against the crossbar in extra-time, shortly before Eder scored Portugal's winner.

The left back had also scored from a free kick in the pre-tournament friendly against Norway, a game which Ronaldo missed.

Ronaldo, who has said he will continue to play for Portugal until at least the 2018 World Cup, has a remarkable record for his country, scoring in seven major tournaments in a row -- the last three World Cups and last four European championships.

He almost single-handedly took Portugal to the last World Cup with a hat-trick in a playoff match against Sweden and Santos has repeatedly praised his team spirit and motivational qualities.   Continued...

Portugal's head coach Fernando Santos and Cristiano Ronaldo step off their airplane holding the EURO 2016 cup as their arrive home in Lisbon, Portugal, July 11, 2016.     REUTERS/Rafael Marchante