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Unlikely Heroes: Eder Euro 2016

The striker Éder is one of the greatest unlikely heroes in football. Today, in our series, we will recount Éder’s journey leading up to the powerful right-footed shot that gave Portugal its greatest title ever.

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Eder’s Career

Éderzito António Macedo Lopes was born in Guinea-Bissau on the west coast of Africa, where he and his family led a very tough and painful life. When Éder was just 3 years old, they headed to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

Soon after they arrived, they encountered various difficulties, and the family chose to leave the young Éder, who was only 5 years old at the time, when the young boy was just 8 years old.

Thus, Éder was taken in by Lar Girassol, an orphanage located in the city of Coimbra. There, Éderzito spent much of his childhood, and alongside his friends, he saw his great passion, football, blossom.

As soon as he returned from school, he would go straight to play football, and according to him, he even broke several windows and glass panes at the orphanage:

“I would come home from school and go play football. I even broke some windows. My friends and I were fanatics about football,” he told O Jogo in 2009.

The windows were broken due to the young boy’s growing strength every day.

Due to his passion for football, at the age of 11, Éder began training at the Associação Desportiva e Cultural Adémia, a club in the city of Coimbra that focuses on developing young talent.

His 5 years at Adémia were magnificent; there, Éder managed to refine his football skills, and at the age of 17, he transferred to the main team of Grupo Desportivo Tourizense, where he played in the 2nd Division of the Portuguese League in the 2007/2008 season.

Éder visiting Adémia's Instalations
Photo: Reproduction

In the following season, he moved to Académica de Coimbra, where he stayed for 4 years and demonstrated his potential. At the time, Éder was already nearly 1.90 meters tall and despite his size, he showed great speed and skill with the ball, even being used in all attacking positions.

During his time at Académica de Coimbra, he played 105 games and scored 19 goals, with the highlight being the 2011/2012 season, where he was one of the team’s technical leaders, demonstrating great strength, determination, precise finishes, and unique explosiveness.

Éder was the type of player who only cared about playing; as we say here in Brazil, he was a jack-of-all-trades, there was no bad time with him.

In the 2012/2013 season, things started to change for the striker. Due to his performance at Académica, Éderzito was signed by Braga, the fourth force in Portuguese football.

His first season with the Minho Warriors was spectacular, so much so that at the end of 2012, he received his Portuguese citizenship, and on November 11, 2012, he made his debut for the national team in a World Cup qualifying match against Azerbaijan.

Little did the fast and resilient center-forward know that years after his naturalization and his first game for the Seleção das Quinas, he would score the most important goal in Portuguese football.

His 3 years with Braga were great; we can say they were the technical and physical peak of the center-forward. In total, he played 87 games, scoring 34 goals, not to mention his tactical discipline and commitment on the field, being a regular fixture in the national team call-ups.

In the middle of the 2015 season, due to his good performances and constant appearances for the Seleção das Quinas, Éder was bought by Swansea from Wales, which at the time was competing in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, he failed to establish himself in the Welsh team and was soon loaned to Lille in France, where he seemed to find his good form.

On the eve of the Euros, he didn’t know if he would be called up; he barely played for Swansea in the final stretch and was starting to establish himself at Lille.

However, his dedication to the Portuguese national team in his previous call-ups and his good seasons in Portuguese football were not forgotten by coach Fernando Santos, who called him up to be the direct replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Éder - Perfil de jogador | Transfermarkt
Photo: Transfermarkt

Euro 2016

The Portuguese national team arrived at the Euros as underdogs, even though they had Cristiano Ronaldo. Much of the media and critics did not consider them among the favorites.

This favoritism was completely reserved for Germany and the host country, France, which had a strong team, led by the excellent form of Griezmann.

However, Portugal did not let the comments discourage them, and under the leadership of Cristiano Ronaldo, they marched confidently towards their first trophy.

The media wasn’t entirely wrong; in the group stage, the Portuguese team drew all 3 games and ended up qualifying in 3rd place.

Éder played in the first two matches.

In the round of 16, they faced Croatia, which had performed well in the group stage with 2 wins and 1 draw.

As expected, the game was tough, and it ended in another draw for the Portuguese, but in the last minutes of extra time, the experienced Quaresma worked his magic and secured the qualification for the quarterfinals.

In this game, as in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Éder did not play and watched the matches from the bench.

In the quarterfinals, there was a tense 1-1 draw with Poland, but the Portuguese secured their spot in the semifinals on penalties.

In the semifinal, Portugal played well, unlike in the other games, and won comfortably 2-0 against the sensation of that Euro, Wales, led by the irreverent Gareth Bale.

With goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in 5 magical minutes early in the second half, the Portuguese secured a spot in the final, against none other than the in-form France, the host and the team with the best campaign of Euro 16, the team that defeated Germany and was indisputably playing the best football.

France 0-1 Portugal and the Unlikely Hero.

On July 10, 2016, Europe and the whole world stood still to watch the incredible Euro final between the feared France and the resilient Portuguese team, played at the packed Stade de France, with over 75,000 fans.

It was a tense game from start to finish, with a lot of determination from both teams but without great scoring opportunities.

Even more so when, in the 7th minute, after a tough tackle from Payet in the midfield, Cristiano Ronaldo injured his knee.

The greatest idol of the Portuguese national team did everything to continue, until, at the 25th minute of the first half, in tears, he left the game.

Coach Fernando Santos’ choice was to bring in Quaresma, opting to play without a traditional center-forward.

In the first half, there was only one great chance to score. In the 9th minute, Griezmann received a beautiful cross in the middle of the box, anticipated the marking, and headed firmly, the ball was going into the top corner, but Rui Patrício stretched out and made a fantastic save.

The second half was more of the same, a very tough game with few good chances, until the 65th minute, when France pushed up their marking and started pressuring Portugal in their half.

At 65 minutes, Coman entered the area from the left, cut back, and gave a beautiful cross to Griezmann, who once again anticipated the marking and headed, this time just missing the crossbar.

In the 74th minute, France’s best chance came; Coman advanced down the left flank, cut inside, and played a beautiful through ball to Giroud, the center-forward controlled and shot firmly and low with his left foot, the ball ended up in Rui Patrício’s hands who performed another miracle.

In the 77th minute, Éder was called by coach Fernando Santos and Cristiano Ronaldo, who spoke extensively with the center-forward.

The option seemed to be for Éder to hold the ball up in the attacking half, as Portugal had played almost the entire match without a traditional center-forward and was suffering a lot to withstand the blue pressure.

However, what was to come after Éder’s entry was much more than just holding balls in the attacking half.

At the end of regulation time, the game heated up; at 80 minutes, Nani dribbled the ball down the right, tried to cross but mis-hit it, the ball was heading towards Lloris’s goal, who made a beautiful save, Quaresma got the rebound, chested it down, and attempted an overhead kick, only for the French goalkeeper to make another great save.

At 83, Sissoko picked up the ball in midfield, carried it and from a long way out unleashed a bomb, another miracle from Rui Patrício, what a save!

At 91, Gignac received the ball almost in the small area from the left, controlled it, gave a dazzling dribble to Pepe who fell, shot under Rui Patrício, but the ball hit the post luckily.

At 93 minutes, the referee blew the whistle and ended the game to start extra time.

During the break, the Portuguese players, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, encouraged each other a lot.

In extra time, Portugal seemed like a different team and dominated from start to finish. The first great chance came after a free-kick taken by Quaresma, Pepe rose above everyone and headed to the right of Lloris’s goal, the ball narrowly missed the post.

Even before the end of the first half, Quaresma took a corner, Éder rose above everyone, headed down but towards Lloris, who saved it without much difficulty.

At 107 minutes, already in the second half of extra time, Raphael Guerreiro took a beautiful free-kick, it passed the wall perfectly and hit the French crossbar.

Almost in the next play, what few, or almost no one, expected happened.

That man, tall, strong, and dedicated, with a childhood marked by abandonment from his family, received the ball of his life.

Receiving the pass coming out of the area from the left side, Éder, with great strength, shook off the French defender and carried the ball to the center to find space for the shot. When he found it, somewhat off-balance, he didn’t hesitate and with all his strength and precision, he struck the ball, a beautiful curling shot, with no chance for Lloris. A fantastic goal.

1-0 Portugal, to the madness of the bench and the fans, Éderzito, with the greatest joy in the world, ran and smiled, until he was embraced by all his teammates, what a moment!

Thus, the small and great boy, man, resilient and dedicated center-forward scored the most important goal of his career and of an entire nation, the nation that embraced him for eternity.

What a story, dear reader, and what about you, do you remember any other unlikely hero in the world’s most beloved sport?

Eder, um regresso difícil à Ligue 1 - Desporto
Photo: Reproduction

Written by João Felipe Miller.

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