French soccer fans suffer in Paris while Brits triumph at Wimbledon
Sports | Hometown crowds get very different experiences on either side of the English Channel
by Jae Wasson
Posted 7/11/16, 08:53 am
Stunned French soccer fans sat silently in their national stadium just north of Paris as an unlikely hero helped Portugal beat France 1-0 yesterday to win the Euro 2016 title.
Èder Lopes—labeled a “flop” by one of his former teams—was only a substitute, but in the 109th minute of the scoreless final match, the ball rolled to his feet only 25 yards from the French goal, and he kicked it low and hard into the net.
Portugal’s win particularly surprised fans because its star, Cristiano Ronaldo, left the field on a stretcher. Injured early on, he tried to keep going but had to stop when he dropped to the ground for the third time. He cried as he was carried off, but his teammates played dogged defense, thwarting every French attack. Their goalkeeper made seven magnificent saves during the first scoreless 90 minutes ever in a European Championship Final.
Portugal also seemed a likely loser because it finished in third place within its group and was unable to win a game in regulation time until the semifinal against Wales, where Ronaldo headed its first goal. Against a dominant France, a win seemed hopeless. Portugal had drawn against Iceland, the team that surprised everyone in its first major tournament by beating England, but France beat Iceland badly.
When the match ended, Ronaldo returned to the field, knee bandaged, to lift the trophy.
“Nobody believed in Portugal but we won,” he said.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos put it this way: “We were as simple as doves and wise as serpents.”
Meanwhile, across the British Channel, hometown cheered as Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon title in front of an enthusiastic London crowd.
The Scot beat Canadian Milos Raonic in three sets, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6, demonstrating discipline and world-level class against the power of a youngster new to the Grand Slam. Murray struggled for three years against chronic back-pain, his own emotional temperament, and the obstacle of world No. 1 player Novak Djokovic.
“I’ve had some great moments here and some tough losses,” Murray said in the post-game interview. “I’m glad to get my hands on the trophy again.”
Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 against Djokovic, to become the first No. 1-ranked tennis player from the U.K. in 77 years. But then, threatened by injury, he lost multiple finals to the Serb, two in 2016 alone. Murray endured surgery and a long recovery. Coming into the Wimbledon, Djokovic still appeared his most daunting obstacle.
Then, in a surprising match against American Sam Querrey, Djokovic exited the championship in the third round. Querrey had lost eight of his nine games against Djokovic, but he played excellently, beating the champion, who is rumored to be playing through an injury.
So when Murray walked onto the court for the final match, in front of a crowd that included Prime Minister David Cameron, he faced Raonic, known for the speed of his serves.
Murray dominated the three sets in a display of patience new for him. He sent a series of predictable short jabs down the wings, refusing to rush to Raonic’s pace. In the second set, Raonic hit a 147-mph ball—the fastest serve of the tournament—straight at the Scot. Somehow Murray hit it back.
When he won the match with a forehand, he collapsed to the turf, sobbing into his towel. In a post-match interview, Murry said he planned to relish every bit of his second Wimbledon win: “Last time, it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jae is a Zenger House fellow