Elated Portugal fans dance to sweet victory

Lisbon (AFP) – Central Lisbon was taken over by dancing fans, faces painted red, green and yellow and waving national flags after Portugal’s stunning win over France in the Euro 2016 final Sunday.

Tens of thousands of screaming supporters flooded the streets to celebrate Portugal’s 1-0 victory — the country’s first international title delivered even as superstar Cristiano Ronaldo watched injured from the touchline.

“Champions, we are the champions of Europe!” crowds chanted in a fan zone in Lisbon. 

“Words fail me. We deserved it. We finally silenced the French and everyone who spoke ill of us. We proved that we are stronger,” said 22-year-old Ruben Sardinha, a Portuguese flag tied around his neck. 

Fellow fan Carla Martins, with tears in her eyes, said she didn’t doubt her team for a second.

“Portugal! Portugal!” she screamed before losing her voice. “I believed in us right until the end. We deserved it!”

But not everyone was so confident throughout. The crowd shuddered with fear after Ronaldo was stretchered off in tears in the first half.

That dread was replaced with explosive cheers after substitute Eder’s thundering out-of-the-blue shot in the 109th minute.

“Without a doubt we deserve it. We weren’t arrogant, but humble. Maybe with Ronaldo we would have had one more goal, but we played as a team and it paid off,” said fan Fernando Silva, 61.

But still, the victory was bittersweet for some who would have liked to see the captain finish the tournament on a higher note. 

“Ronaldo didn’t deserve to finish like that in tears. It’s really very sad,” said Gregorio Teixeira, 40.

– ‘Eder, Eder’ –

After the final whistle sounded, booming cheers echoed through the streets of Lisbon, as fans in cars waved flags and honked their horns with fireworks exploding overhead.

Thousands gathered at Lisbon’s Marques de Pombal, where even the square’s namesake statue was draped in Portugal’s banner, to belt out the national anthem.

“Eder, Eder,” the fans chanted of the night’s hero. 

At a nearby square, throngs of fans gathered for a joy-fuelled dance party after watching a beaming Ronaldo and his team lift the trophy on a large screen.

Portugal’s win Sunday healed their football wound from a shock they suffered 12 years ago in the 2004 Euro final when they lost lost to Greece 1-0 on home territory — a defeat that left Ronaldo in tears.

“It’s very emotional. We couldn’t take the title in 2004 but we are finally victorious,” said Tiago Teixeira, 22.

The victory was a much-needed morale boost for Portugal as the country struggles to kickstart its economy after a public spending crisis that sparked a threat of possible sanctions by the European Commission this month. 

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who watched the game at the Stade de France, celebrated the win along with the rest of the nation. 

“We are the best in Europe. We showed what we are made of: strong, united and able to overcome all difficulties,” a jubilant de Sousa said.

Former Portugal captain Luis Figo also chimed in, saying “CHAMPIONS! You are great! Congratulations!” on social media.

Portugal can now expect a momentous national welcome when they return to Lisbon and a tickertape parade through the capital on Monday.

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