Unlike many of the star performers of previous global competitions, the last-minute hero in Euro 2016 was a man who had a relatively tiny amount of media and coverage. Yet, in the course of 120 minutes, Eder spiked to superstardom and became the newest national hero.
Born Ederzito António Macedo Lopes in 1987, Eder’s story isn’t the typical ascension to stardom. When he was born, his family moved from Guinea-Bissau to Lisbon to find a better life, though they couldn’t afford to take care of him. He was sent to a state-run care facility where he was watched over by Catholic priests and led a very regimented life. For him, football was his only escape. Though he says that he enjoyed his early life for the most part, it was through sport that he was able to make some of his truest friends and have some of his most character-shaping experiences. He stayed close with his family despite being very separated, and from early in his life, he knew that football was his passion. With an unrivaled spirit and love for the game, his senior career began with the Portuguese third division team Oliveira do Hospital. A tall and powerful striker, Eder ascended into the Portuguese Primeira Liga with stints on two teams before transferring to Swansea City in the Premier League in 2015, though he was loaned to Lille in Ligue 1 after failing to score in 13 appearances. Sold to Lille for 4.57 million Euros in 2016, he was subsequently loaned and sold to Russian team Lokomotiv Moscow. In 371 appearances across all domestic leagues, Eder has bagged 87 goals in his career to date. Though a rather dismal career by standards of today’s international stars, Eder never refused to quit. His drive and passion drove him to continue and inspired perhaps his most iconic good luck charm/celebration- a white glove that he always has down his left sock during play, beginning as a rebuttal to the critics in Lille who said he wasn’t capable of performing on the international stage.
In terms of an international career, Eder chose to represent Portugal and was called up to the senior squad in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. With his first goal coming in his 18th cap for Portugal against Italy during a friendly, he was called up for the Euro 2016 squad as the sole striker on the lineup. In a team such as Portugal, which relies so heavily upon their immensely talented wingers, Eder was immediately written off as a ‘token’ striker in a lineup that would otherwise find little use for him. And unfortunately, this was largely the case for the majority of the Euro cup. Almost entirely in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo (Eder was quite often the beneficiary of his ‘thousand-yard-stare’) and other Portuguese wingers, Eder’s value in the tournament was initially very little. Scraping by in a third-place finish in the group stages and riding success to the final, the attacker didn’t find the net until it was perhaps the best possible time to do so. But wow, was that the right time to find the bottom left corner. With a moment of inspiration sent down directly from the footballing gods, Eder had a foot of space from distance in the 108th minute. He put his right boot through the ball, past Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti and, more importantly, past the arms of Hugo Lloris. And in an instant, a star was born. “The striker who rarely scores, has scored maybe the biggest goal, in the history of the Portugal National Team!!!” Martin Tyler screamed.
Easily the greatest moment of his career, Eder’s work was the culmination of years of bullish work in the face of gross adversity and disappointment. It will surely be tough for Euro 2020 to live up to what Eder felt in those next 48 hours, but hey, who said lightning couldn’t strike twice?