Paris (AFP) – Portugal’s man of the match Pepe said that his team had been inspired to beat France in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final after talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off by injury.
Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo was stretchered off to a standing ovation in the 25th minute at Stade de France after jarring his knee in a challenge by Dimitri Payet.
But he returned to the touchline in extra time to see substitute Eder net an 109th-minute goal that earned Portugal a 1-0 victory and a first major tournament success.
“It was tough to lose our main man, the man who could at any moment score a goal,” said Pepe, who overcame a thigh injury to play at Stade de France.
“He could make the difference, but we were warriors on the pitch. We said we would win it for him and we managed to do that.”
Portugal rode their luck at times, notably when France substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac hit the post in stoppage time, but hit the woodwork themselves in extra-time through Raphael Guerreiro’s free-kick.
“There was a lot of suffering. It was a very intense game,” added Pepe, who won the Champions League alongside Ronaldo with Madrid in May.
“We fought very hard. We had to work very hard and be more humble than the other team. We left it all out there. It’s the only way to win.
“We represented Portugal, a beautiful country of immigrants, and we represent every one of them. This goes out to them.”
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