SAINT-DENIS: Dider Deschamps is not used to losing finals: as a player he won the World Cup and European Championship and the French nation had clung to his good-luck charm until Eder struck Portugal’s out-of-the-blue extra-time winning goal in the Stade de France writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Deschamps took defeat stoically after the hosts and favourites fell one match short of emulating the French triumph on home ground back in 1984, the last time hosts also ended up as champions.
He said: “It’s very cruel even though I’d like to congratulate Portugal. We had opportunities even in the last minute of normal time when we struck the post. It comes down to very little so getting to the final and losing like that is very cruel, very tough.
“I won’t forget our journey and what the 23 players did. Perhaps we lacked a little bit of freshness after playing a tough semi-final against Germany three days before but my players gave everything.
“If I say this then it looks like excuses but it’s the reality. There is a big difference between having three or four days’ rest between games at the end of a long season. We put a lot of effort into the Germany game. In the end it came down to fine margins so we just have to accept it and try to digest this.”
Trying to look on the brighter side, Deschamps added: “We should not forget the run we’ve been on to get this far and the enthusiasm of millions of French people. We would love to have won it for them. But it’s hard to look at the positives at this moment in time. This is top-level football and you have to accept it.”
Deschamps praised his players for their efforts throughout the tournament and in the final itself.
Pride in defeat
He said: “I’ve had an incredible group of players to work with. I’m proud of what they have achieved and I’m very sad for them but it does lead us to believe there are better days ahead.
“Antoine Griezmann had his chances but he came up against a goalkeeper [Rui Patricio] who made some crucial saves. Griezmann came into the tournament after a terrific season with his club but he is still a young player who is coming into the top level of European and world footall. Maybe he wasn’t clinical enough this time but he is a top level performer.
“Dmitri Payet had an excellent start to the Euros. He lacked a bit of freshness towards the end of the tournament. I have to congratulate him on all the good things he has achieved during the Euro.”
Deschamps also praised new European champions Portugal even though he difference between the teams was just the 108th-minute strike from substitute Eder.
He said: “Portugal are good at stopping the opposition from playing. They defend as a unit and can get forward quickly as soon as the slightest opportunity comes up.
“Without Cristiano Ronaldo they had one fewer attacking option and we kept pushing. Perhaps we left more space but we didn’t play a bad game. We went for it, the players gave everything but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.
“Portugal deserved to win because the winners always deserve it. They didn’t make it to the final by chance. This is the first time a team who finished third in their group ends up as European champions but they won the most important fixture tonight. We can’t take anythng away from them.”
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