It was 2016. In Mexico, “El Chapo,” one of the world’s most notorious drug kingpins was recaptured after escaping from a maximum-security prison. In Brussels thirty-five people were killed in three coordinated suicide bombings. On April 21st, the musician Prince was found dead at his home, and in June, the world saw what would become a massive wave of political change brought on by right-wing populists, as the United Kingdom shocked the world when it voted to leave the European Union. Prior to the vote, polls and forecasts indicated that a Brexit rejection was almost a lock. It wasn’t. And in the game of soccer, even if a team is heavily favored to win, no team was a “lock” to win a Championship, especially one as big as the UEFA Euro 2016 Final. Not until time expired and the referee blew his whistle.
Just 604 miles away from the stunning outcome of Brexit, at the Sade de France in Saint-Denis, France, the fifteenth UEFA Euro 2016 Final was being played between Portugal and France. Little did the world know that if Portugal won, their star player Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s captain and all-time leading scorer, wouldn’t be the reason, and that an unlikely star would be born named Ederzito António Macedo Lopes (Eder).
The stadium was buzzing with excitement, and the screams were deafening as France, the host team and two-time winners of the Euro Cup, had the shot of raising the Henri Delaunay Trophy for the third time. It seemed to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s game to be won, but in the eighth minute of the final, he went down and so did the hopes that Portugal would win the Euro 2016 Final. “Third time’s the charm” seemed to be running through Ronaldo’s mind as he attempted to play on for the third time after coming off the field two times before, but the pain was too great and he went down once again. When Ronaldo wept, Portugal cried with him.
At 90 minutes it was a scoreless game and tensions were high going into extra time. Who was going to be the one to score the goal if Ronaldo wasn’t there? Who was going to bring glory to their country, Portugal or France? As time went on, sweat dripped down the players’ faces, and jerseys tattooed to the players’ bodies from the sweat. Their muscles cried out as Portugal, gearing up for any opportunity, gained strength. In the 109th minute, there was an unconventional answer to the question of who was going to be the first team to score.
Ederzito António Macedo Lopes (Eder), a Portuguese professional soccer player who plays forward for the Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow and a member of the Portugal national team, was brought on during the second half as a substitute for Renato Sanches. In the 109th minute, Bacary Sagna threw in the ball towards João Moutinho’s waiting foot, but it ricocheted off and bounced back into the air as hungry players in red and blue jerseys ran to where the ball might land. Griezmann’s raises his foot to bring the ball around and he seems to be in control, but his body moves faster than the ball and just like that, the tables have turned. Moutinho recovers the ball and, mid-jump, taps it to William. William passes the ball between two befuddled Frenchmen to Quaresma, then back to Moutinho who passes it forward. Holding off Koscielny, Eder is able to receive the ball and break away from his defender. Five blue jerseys circle one red, like water trying to quell a fire, but this fire is too strong to be put out. Eder, cutting inside and utilizing all his power, strikes the ball between two Frenchmen and low to the goalkeeper’s right. The ball passes right under the goalkeeper’s arm as he unsuccessfully dives to save the ball and, by extension, France. Number 9, an “unknown” substitute, scores in the 109th minute, bringing glory to Portugal, as Portugal goes on to win their first major trophy.