Portugal's ugly duckling Eder turns into golden goose
Portugal get their fairy-tale ending as 'ugly duckling' turns into their golden goose
- After extra-time
Football threw up another unlikely fairy-tale story yesterday morning (Singapore time) when journeyman professional Eder scored the goal that won Euro 2016 for Portugal.
Coach Fernando Santos said the "ugly duckling has become beautiful" after Eder, jeered by Portugal fans during a game in March, fired in a long-range goal 11 minutes from the end of extra-time to give Portugal an unexpected 1-0 win and their first major trophy.
Cristiano Ronaldo has dominated the Portuguese team for the last decade but, after the three-time World Player of the Year limped off injured in the 25th minute, it was the 28-year-old Eder, born in Guinea-Bissau, who stole the headlines as he helped his adopted country end a run of 10 straight defeats by France dating back to 1975.
Eder played 13 games for Premier League side Swansea City without scoring a goal last season before being loaned to French top flight side Lille, where he scored six times in 14 appearances.
"I felt that Fernando Santos knew about my qualities ever since the day the squad were named," Eder said.
"He put his confidence in me and, today, I paid him back. I'm very happy."
His presence in Portugal's 23-man Euro 2016 squad was in doubt until the very last minute, and his goal against France was only his fourth in 29 international appearances.
The striker scored his first goal for Portugal in only his 18th cap.
Even in club colours, he has hardly been prolific, with his best-ever haul being 16 goals in 31 matches for Braga in 2012/13.
Eder is one of five members of the Portuguese squad who were born outside Europe - along with Danilo (Guinea Bissau), Pepe (Brazil), Luis Nani (Cape Verde) and William Carvalho (Angola).
Born Ederzito Antonio Macedo Lopes, his parents in Guinea-Bissau gave him up as a child because they couldn't afford to raise him.
He moved to the Coimbra District in Portugal and was raised in foster care where his talent for football was discovered, turning out for Associacao Desportiva e Cultural da Ademia as an 11-year-old.
Eder made his professional debut in the Portuguese third tier with Tourizense, then moved on to Academica Coimbra for four seasons before spending three seasons with slightly less unfashionable Braga.
He made his international debut against Azerbaijan in 2014 but since then has only been a fringe player.
Eder was brought on in the 79th minute of the Euro 2016 final after Santos decided he needed a more physical presence in attack.
"I understood that Eder was the player who had to come on to hold up the ball in attack and create problems for France in the air," Santos said.
"When he came on, he said he would score the goal, and he did.
"He deserves congratulations. The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful one."
The "ugly ducking" said that he had prophetically been told by Ronaldo that he would score the winner.
"Cristiano told me I would be score the winning goal," said Eder. "He gave me strength and positive energy. And that goal was really important.
"A lot of hard work went into it. "We worked hard from the first minute and right from the beginning of the Euros. We were spectacular." - Wire Services.
Name: Ederzito Antonio Macedo Lopes D.O.B.: Dec 22, 1987 in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
Current club: Lille (France) Former clubs: Oliveira Hospital (2006/07), Tourizense (2007/08), Academica (2008/12), Braga (2012/15), Swansea (2015/16)International honours: European Championship (2016)
International caps: 29
International goals: 4
International honours: Portuguese League Cup (Braga, 2012/13), Portuguese Cup (Braga, 2011/12)
BY THE NUMBERS
Portugal striker Eder had played just 13 minutes at Euro 2016 before the final.
Euro 2016 final match-winner Eder has scored only four goals in 29 appearances.