Almost as unlikely as Portugal winning Euro 2016, was their match winner in the final against France.
When Cristiano Ronaldo went off injured after just 25 minutes, Portuguese prospects of winning a first European Championship suffered a damaging blow, since they lost their main goal – scoring threat.
As such Ronaldo’s team mates were required to assume a greater level of responsibility for trying to unlock the French defence without their talismanic captain.
Euro Ecstasy for Eder
The Portuguese players did that collectively and came close to scoring on numerous occasions, before Eder found the net with a wonderful low 25-yard drive.
Prior to appearing as a substitute against France, when he was introduced for Renato Sanches after 79 minutes, Eder’s involvement in the finals had been extremely limited. Specifically he had only made two other late substitute appearances in Portugal’s first two group games against Iceland and Austria, which those amounting to approximately 15 minutes of playing time for the Lille forward.
Given that Eder’s emergence from the bench to score Portugal’s winning goal in the final was entirely unexpected, as he became the sixth substitute to score in a European Championship final, with Olivier Bierhoff, Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres having previously done so.
The manner in which Eder controlled the ball from Joao Moutinho’s pass, strongly resisted the challenge of Laurent Koscielny, before sending a powerful 25-yard shot into the net, displayed a confidence which defied both the striker’s lack of game time at the finals and indifferent club form over the past year.
Differing spells at season at Lille and Swansea
Whilst playing for Swansea, whom he joined from Sporting Braga in June 2015 for a fee in the region of £5m, during the first half of the 2015-16 season, Eder did not score in 15 appearances.
Following that barren run of form, he was loaned to Lille in the January transfer window and quickly established himself as an important member of the French Ligue 1 club’s squad.
By scoring six goals in 13 Ligue 1 games, Eder helped Lille finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League, whilst earning himself a four-year contract with the club and a place in Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad in the process.
Rising to international stardom
Eder’s only other experience of playing in a major international tournament arrived at the 2014 World Cup when he made one start and two substitute appearances, as Portugal were eliminated at the group stage.
Furthermore before his superb strike against France, Eder had never scored in a competitive international game, with his three previous goals coming in friendly’s against Italy, Norway and Estonia.
Ultimately there could scarcely have been a better time for Eder to register his first competitive goal for Portugal as he became Selecao’s unlikely Euro 2016 final goal-scoring saviour and enhanced his reputation on the senior international stage.