Goalkeeper Rui Patricio keeps Portugal on track for title
Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio, deflects a ball by France's Olivier Giroud, left, during 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. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — Portugal may have lost its captain Cristiano Ronaldo through injury, but it found a goalkeeper on outstanding form in the European Championship final.
Rui Patricio made sure France never broke through a defensive line that was the foundation of Portugal's 1-0 victory in extra time on Sunday.
A leaping save to tip away Antione Griezmann's early header; a diving block to divert Olivier Giroud's powerful second-half shot; and a stretching parry of Moussa Sissoko's sizzling drive in the 84h minute. Rui Patricio did everything right.
"Rui Patricio is beyond reproach. I should congratulate him," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said through a translator.
The Portugal keeper made seven key saves to repel France's attack. His efforts extended his record of conceding only one goal in seven and a half hours of play since Portugal limped through the group stage with three draws in third place behind Hungary and Iceland.
It had been the 28-year-old goalkeeper's save of a penalty in the shootout against Poland, from Jakub Blaszczykowski, that helped his team through a tricky quarterfinal that ended 1-1 after extra time.
"In the penalty shootout, he was very important and today he was a key player," Santos said.
At the Stade de France, Rui Patricio's most athletic effort was soaring to reach Griezmann's looping header in the 10th minute, just as Portugal was reeling from the injury to Ronaldo moments earlier.
Griezmann, the six-goal top scorer at Euro 2016, was denied again when he shot low to the 'keeper's left in the 58th minute.
"He (Greizmann) had chances, but he came up tonight against a goalkeeper who made some crucial saves," France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Maybe now Rui Patricio will get wider recognition.
Even on his 52th international appearance, and at his fourth major tournament, he is one of the most under-appreciated top goalkeepers in Europe.
He has been a one-club player, spending his entire career with Sporting Lisbon, which only rarely plays in the Champions League.
Sporting will be in the elite 32-team group stage in September — with a European champion between the posts.