Tekst Saša Ibrulj
Have you ever read The Frog Prince? Of course you have. In modern versions the ugly frog transforms in to a handsome prince after the princess kisses it, but Fernando Santos obviously read one of the old versions. The ones in which it was sufficient for the frog to spend the night on the princess’ pillow. Once he gets in to her bed he only has one goal – to survive the night.
It was the Wednesday night in Lyon that was the most important one for Fernando Santos this June. If there was one sleepless night for the Portuguese coach, it must have been that one. Hours earlier his team drew with Hungary (3-3), but they looked completely headless. They thanked their best player – and one of the best in the world – for his individual qualities and effort. Ronaldo scored twice, put them on the third place and in to the next round. But, it must have been then when Fernando Santos realised that if this frog is ever going to become a prince, it will be a very ugly prince.
Since then including the undisputed world champion in egoism, sacrificed for the final goal – to win this tournament.
Last night’s final was not a magical night, it was not a spectacle, it was not a night that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. But it was another perfect execution of Santos’ plan on how to neutralise the opponent and, by waiting for its chance patiently, kill the game as soon as the chance arrives.
The fact that they did it without their best player just underlines how this team learned not to rely on one guy – even if he is Cristiano Ronaldo – and that a crucial thing for this title was teamwork. Yes, the media are now full of stories on how Ronaldo inspired the team, on how he gave them a half-time speech, on how important he was even though he was not on the pitch. But, the fact is that this team once again played almost perfect hundred and twenty minutes and they did it without Ronaldo.
Of course, Didier Deschamps helped Portugal with his confusing and defensive tactics. What did he do to Pogba? Or better, why did he do that to Pogba? His decisions during the match were equally poor, but again, this match could have gone to either side. If Gignac scored that last chance, we would probably read praise for Deschamps and his vision. But, that is the story of this tournament. It was mediocre, in best case, with most of the teams looking quite even. One ball was decisive too often; one mistake, one set piece,… This time it went to Portugal’s side, but it was completely deserved.
At the end the best team won it. Yes, Portugal was by far the best team in France this year; or at least they adjusted themselves best.
This morning Fernando Santos and his Portugal are smiling with a crown on top of their head. The frog turned to a prince after it spent not one but four nights just sitting on the pillow. O Príncipe Sapo. Because, princes can be ugly and no one cares. As long as they are princes.