This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
That's it, then. The curtain has fallen on the great drama we call football and, in the last match of the summer, Portugal have won Euro 2016. The Seleção triumphed by being dogged, determined and absolutely dreadful to watch, grinding their way to victory over the course of an unspeakably drab final which almost nobody seemed to enjoy.
Apart from Mick Jagger, that is. Mick Jagger had a fucking great time, getting into the spirit of the occasion by dressing like a hip, middle-class dad and shouting his love of football to the rooftops.
It says a lot about the final that Mick Jagger's pre-match message was one of the highlights, but there we are. Here are the main talking points from the match, including Cristiano Ronaldo's beautiful redemption and some inevitable chat about moths.
As you may or may not have noticed, there were quite a lot of moths at the Stade de France during the final. They harassed the players, flew into the eyes of spectators, swarmed over kit and equipment and landed on camera lenses, blighting the entire event. This was nothing short of a moth plague, a massed infestation, a Biblical portent of doom for the world. Even worse, it provided Mark Pougatch and the ITV panel with at least a minute's worth of moth banter, which, as is evident from this short clip, is the worst and most excruciating form of banter known to man.
Still, with the match itself so utterly uninspired, a scourge of crepuscular insects at least provided some excitement. As the moths settled down on the stadium's television cameras, perspective turned them into vast monstrosities, feather-winged beasts come to devour Europe's best footballers. At one point, we were almost sure that a giant moth had carried off Paul Pogba, so absent was he from proceedings. When one creature latched viciously onto Olivier Giroud, we thought we could hear the home crowd cheer.
Though the plague of moths can certainly be interpreted as a sign of God's wrath, the insect epidemic was at least partly down to a member of the Parisian ground staff. Reports suggest that someone left the floodlights on overnight, hence attracting the entirety of the capital's moth population to the stadium.
As it turned out, the moths gave us more to talk about than every single France player put together. Well done to whoever left the lights on; it at least distracted us from the ordure on the pitch.
In an especially dire first half, the biggest talking point was doubtlessly the injury to Cristiano Ronaldo. Seen as crucial to Portugal's chances of winning the match, he howled in pain after a tough tackle from Dimitri Payet around the 20-minute mark, and slumped to the ground in tears soon afterwards. As Ronaldo lay wounded on the turf, a single moth descended upon his face.
Was this an act of divine cruelty? Had this moth come to mock Ronaldo, and to drink deep from his salty tears? Was this the mighty moth of fate, an omen of Portugal's impending defeat?
No, this was the moth of redemption. This was a healing angel and – despite having no experience of modern sports medicine or physiotherapy – it laid its tiny moth hands on Cristiano, and gave him great strength.
While Ronaldo took no further part in the game itself, he went on to have a crucial role on the sidelines. His teammates have credited his half-time speech with spurring them on to victory, and his re-appearance in the technical area in extra-time seemed to give Portugal the impetus to hold on to their late lead. Exhorting the team from the dugout, hauling injured players back to their feet, he played his part magnificently even if he couldn't get out on the turf himself. Ultimately, Ronaldo was crucial to Portugal's success, and it was all down to a sublime and holy moth.
Prior to the start of the Euros, France were clear favourites to triumph. Les Bleus certainly had the best team on paper, with incredible quality from front to back. Players like Pogba, Payet and Antoine Griezmann promised to light up the tournament, and each of them had their moments in the limelight. Having started slow, the team seemed to be peaking at the competition's climax.
That was an illusion, as it turned out. When it came to the final, France simply did not deserve to win.
While many will blame Portugal for the turgid nature of the grand finale, the French created remarkably little of worth at the Stade de France. André-Pierre Gignac's late post-rattler was the closest they came to nabbing a winner, but the fact that he was on the pitch in the first place suggested that something had gone seriously wrong. France's attack was painfully isolated throughout, with Giroud and Griezmann seemingly acres away from each other. Though Moussa Sissoko laboured admirably to create space for them, they neglected to make anything of it, and the game soon descended into a hit-and-miss lumping match the likes of which suited their opponents down to the ground.
While Fernando Santos' men were hardly the neutral's favourites, few would argue that they fluked their win. There are plenty of valid complaints to be made about Portugal but, when it comes down to it, France lost because of their own failings, and only have themselves to blame in defeat.
Now, onto those valid complaints about Portugal. The comparison might be somewhat familiar at this point, but the Seleção are surely the least exciting champions since Greece at Euro 2004. Back then, it was Portugal who played hosts, and Portugal who lost to the obstinate defensive scrappers. The tables have been turned, and Cristiano Ronaldo and co. will make no apologies for winning their first ever international title.
That said, like their Greek predecessors, Portugal will make for some of the least popular winners of all time.
In a tournament of lovable overachievers, the Portuguese stand out as particularly unfitting champions. Euro 2016 has been defined by the underdog stories of Wales and Iceland, yet the glory has gone to perhaps the least romantic team in the competition. Much has been made of the fact that Portugal have only won one game in normal time over the course of the past month, but it's the manner of their performances that rankles with people the most.
In endeavouring first and foremost to be unbreachable, Portugal made themselves unwatchable, too. They may have been rewarded with international winners' medals, but the pantheon of great European Championship sides remains undisturbed.
THE FINAL INDIGNITY
This might seem like a revolutionary proposition but, for God's sake, let's shelve the concept of finals. In the contemporary climate of instant managerial sackings and hugely reactionary football opinion, teams are – more than ever – terrified to lose. That encourages conservative tactics, ultra-cautious coaching and unexpressive football in supposed showpieces. Accordingly, at both club and international level, the vast majority of major finals are basically shite. The culmination of Euro 2016 was no exception.
Why don't we just sack off finals altogether, then? We should adopt some radical alternative, like victory by democratic ballot, or by tribunal, or even by lot. If that doesn't work, then we need new rules to reinvigorate finals. We could introduce multiball, or rolling subs, or something. Fuck it, let's just say the game goes on indefinitely, and it's first to five.