The unlikely hero

Eder repays Santos' faith with winner

Portugal forward Eder (No. 9), widely regarded as a fringe player, scores for the underdogs against host nation France with 11 minutes remaining in extra time in the Euro 2016 final on Sunday.
Portugal forward Eder (No. 9), widely regarded as a fringe player, scores for the underdogs against host nation France with 11 minutes remaining in extra time in the Euro 2016 final on Sunday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Football threw up another unlikely hero on Sunday when journeyman 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.

Cristiano Ronaldo has dominated the Portugal team for the last decade but, after the three-time World Player of the Year limped off injured, it was the 28-year-old Eder, born in Guinea-Bissau, who stole the headlines.

Eder played 13 games for English Premier League club Swansea City without scoring a goal last season, before being loaned to French club Lille.

"I felt that Fernando Santos (has known) about my qualities ever since the day the squad was named," Eder told reporters. "He put his confidence in me and today, I paid him back. I'm very happy."

His presence in the 23-man squad was in doubt until the very last minute and his goal on Sunday was only his fourth in 29 international appearances.

Eder is one of five members of the Portugal squad who were born outside Europe along with Danilo (Guinea-Bissau), Pepe (Brazil), Nani (Cape Verde) and William Carvalho (Angola).

Full name Ederzito Antonio Macedo Lopes, he has never played for any of the big three clubs in his homeland.

After starting his career with third-tier side Tourizense, he 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 the 79th minute of Sunday's game after Santos decided he needed a more physical presence in attack.

"I (knew) 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 went on, he said he would score the goal, and he did. "

Eder said his injured captain's words had inspired him. "(Ronaldo) told me I would score the winning goal for the team," he said.

"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."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Eder repays Santos' faith with winner'. Print Edition | Subscribe