Pepe Talks Cristiano Ronaldo After Portugal's Euro 2016 Final Win vs. France

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2016

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Pepe celebrate with the trophy at the end of the Euro 2016 final soccer match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Sunday, July 10, 2016. Portugal won 1-0. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Portugal defender Pepe has revealed he wanted to win Sunday's UEFA Euro 2016 final for Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward was stretchered off with a knee injury in the first half of the showpiece against France.

Per MailOnline's Rob Draper and Alex Bywater, Pepe said:

When Cristiano said he couldn't go on, I tried to tell my team-mates that we had to win it for him, that we were going to fight for him.

It was tough because we lost our main man and we had all our hopes in him. He's a player who can score at any minute. We know his abilities. We poured our blood sweat and tear on to the pitch. We left if all on the pitch for our nation.

Ronaldo was injured early in the match after a collision with Dimitri Payet and eventually substituted in the 25th minute after attempting to carry on—which prompted widespread disappointment for those watching the spectacle, as demonstrated by BBC Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand's reaction:

Rio Ferdinand @rioferdy5

Its a shame if C.Ronaldo has to come off. You want to see the great players on the pitch in finals

Despite losing their talisman, a Pepe-inspired Portugal conspired to keep out the hosts before Eder fired in the winner in extra time.

SportsCenter shared the range of emotions Ronaldo went through over the course of the match:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

The #EURO2016 Final, as told by Ronaldo's facial expressions. https://t.co/lvtuVP7v5g

Per MailOnline, the Real Madrid star said:

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I'm very happy. I've been waiting for a long time, since 2004, and asking God for another chance.

Today was unfortunate with my injury but I always believed that these players would be strong enough with the manager's tactics. It's one of the happiest moments of my life. 

I always wanted to win something with Portugal and I've managed to do so. Thanks to all Portugal and all Portuguese emigrants. This is amazing, unique moment and unforgettable.

Ronaldo and Real team-mate Pepe have now also joined a select group of players to have tasted European success at international and club level in the same year, per OptaPaolo:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

10 & 11 - Pepe & Ronaldo are 10th and 11th players to win both the Champions League and the European Championship in the same year. Glory.

For all his controversial antics and divisive behaviour, the centre-back proved over the course of the tournament just how exceptional a player he is. He celebrated with the trophy and his man-of-the-match award after the game:

Bleacher Report UK's Sam Tighe was particularly impressed with him:

Sam Tighe @stighefootball

Pepe has made a mockery of my suggestion he might be in decline. So good for RM end of season, so so good for #por at #euro2016

Despite turning 33 in February, the defender looks more than capable of playing an important role with Los Blancos again next season as well as helping Portugal qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

As for Ronaldo, while the victory did not come about in the manner he would have liked and he can hardly be said to have set the tournament alight, he deserves credit for the leadership he displayed.

From inspiring Joao Moutinho to take a penalty against Poland to motivating his team-mates from the sidelines on Sunday and "delivering a passionate extra-time team talk," per Draper and Bywater, he helped lead Portugal to victory.

Indeed, it is likely that his presence was what helped motivate Pepe and Co. to win the final in his absence rather than crumble under the pressure of playing without him.


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