Euro 2016: 'We missed a unique opportunity,' France manager Didier Deschamps admits

11 Jul

Didier Deschamps admitted France missed a ‘unique opportunity’ to be crowned European champions after losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal in extra-time at the Stade de France.

Portugal, having lost captain Cristiano Ronaldo to injury in the first half, stunned the home crowd by winning with Eder’s strike in the second-half of extra-time.

Despite being strong favourites to win their third European title, and second on home soil, France failed to convince against Fernando Santos’s team.

And Deschamps, who captained France to World Cup glory in 1998, admitted his country was suffering after the shock defeat.

“We’ve missed a unique opportunity to win a Euros in our own country,” he said. “There are no words.

“The disappointment is there, and it’s huge, and it will take time to digest it. But we won together, we suffer together and, today, we lost together.

“We so wanted to rouse the French people, and it would have been magnificent to bring the trophy home to them. But, unfortunately, that isn’t going to be the case.”

France faced Portugal just 72 hours after defeating Germany in a draining semi-final in Marseille and Deschamps hinted at his players being fatigued by that victory.

“Even if we were a little bit tired as well, that’s not an excuse,” he said. “We had chances to score, and the last one fell to ‘Dédé’ Gignac.

“It came down to tiny details, it was a close match. We had chances, as did the Portuguese, but unfortunately they scored.

“It’s a great disappointment for it to end now, with this final.


“We must not throw everything that we’ve done away, but we threw away a great chance to be European Champions – not the only one, but a great one.”

Portugal’s victory perhaps carried even greater weight with the success coming with Ronaldo sat on the sidelines, nursing the knee injured in a challenge by Dimitri Payet.

Pepe, the Real Madrid defender, admitted Portugal were forced to dig deep to overcome France and win the country’s first major title.

“This was tough because we lost our main man, and we’d pinned all our hopes on him,” Pepe said. “He’s a player who can score a goal at any second.

“You know his abilities. But when he said he couldn’t go on, I told my team-mates that we had to win it for him. That we were going to fight, to fight for him.

“At the break, the manager surprised everyone. He set us up very well, strategically speaking. This was Plan B, I guess, because he moved the team around very well.

“The substitutes came on at the right time and the right players each time, and we put blood, sweat and tears on the pitch.


“I said we’d leave it all on the pitch for our people, for our nation, and that’s what we did.

“We worked so hard and, thankfully, we managed to secure a positive result.”

Eder, who endured an unsuccessful loan spell at Swansea City, claimed Ronaldo acted as inspiration for his goal.

“Ronaldo told me I would score the winning goal for the team,” the striker told O Jogo. “He gave me this strength, this energy and it was vital.

“It was a goal I’ve been working for from the first minute of the Euros.

“For all the work we did, for all of the Portuguese, it’s fantastic,” he added. “It’s well deserved and we should all be congratulated.”

Meanwhile, France captain Hugo Lloris, who produced a stunning save from Ricardo Quaresma in normal time, praised Portugal for their victory, despite their defensive approach to the game.

“Credit to Portugal,” Lloris said. “They didn’t necessarily play positive football over the tournament, and they only won one match in 90 minutes, but it showed great strength of character for them to win this.

“We had to be more clinical. When you hit the post in the dying seconds, football can be very cruel.

“But you have to get on with it. We’ll have to digest things, but the overriding emotion now is one of sadness.

“We have to learn from this and keep going forward.”


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