Portugal defender and Man of the Match at the Euro 2016 finals Pepe has dedicated their victory to the injured Cristiano Ronaldo.
Captain Ronaldo left the Stade de France pitch in tears after 25 minutes following Dimitri Payet’s tackle.
But Portugal won their first major tournament thanks to substitute Eder’s 25-yard strike in extra time.
“It was tough to lose our main man, the man who could at any moment score a goal,” said Pepe. “We said we would win it for him and we managed to do that.”
Pepe, who plays alongside Ronaldo for Real Madrid, added his team had performed like “warriors on the pitch”.
“There was a lot of suffering, it was a very intense game,” he said.
Although Portugal had never won a major tournament before, this was their fourth European Championship semi-final or final in the past five tournaments – reaching the quarter-finals the other time.
They lost their only previous final – as Euro 2004 hosts – when underdogs Greece left a 19-year-old Ronaldo in tears. Sunday’s final saw roles reversed, with Portugal upsetting the host nation to win the final.
Ronaldo finally achieves international glory
Ronaldo, the most capped and prolific player in Portugal’s history – with 61 goals in 133 caps – was in tears when he initially came off the pitch following Payet’s tackle.
After some treatment he came back on for a few minutes, but had to admit defeat and came off on a stretcher, again in tears, as he threw his captain’s armband to the ground before handing it to Nani.
The 31-year-old has won three Champions League titles and been named World Player of the Year three times, but had never lifted a trophy for his country,
“I am very happy,” said the forward, who cheered on his team-mates and shouted instructions from the sidelines in animated fashion during the frantic final moments of extra time.
“I have been looking for this for a long time, since 2004. I asked God for another chance at this because we deserved it. Today I was unfortunate, I was injured but I always believed that these players, together with the strategy, would be strong enough to beat France.
“This is one of the happiest moments in my career. I always said I’d like to win something with Portugal.”