Dimitri Payet insisted there was no malice in his tackle that forced Cristiano Ronaldo out of Sunday’s Euro 2016 final.
Portugal beat hosts France 1-0 after extra time in Saint-Denis thanks to a superb 109th-minute strike from substitute Eder.
The Lille striker would, in all likelihood, not have been on the pitch if captain and talisman Ronaldo had not hurt his knee during a crunching early challenge with Payet.
Ronaldo attempted to continue twice after receiving treatment but eventually left the field on a stretcher, with the Stade de France rising to offer a warm ovation in the 25th minute.
“No, it was a challenge, that’s all, period,” Payet told reporters after the match. “I regained the possession and if I hurt him it was not intentional.
“It’s not in my nature to be a bad guy on the pitch. There is no question about it.”
Payet, who made way for Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman with an hour played, lamented a lack of ruthlessness from Didier Deschamps’ team, who enjoyed enough chances to win within 90 minutes.
“We’re disappointed,” he said. “We were under the impression we were the ones with the possession and the better chances but we missed that goal that could unblock the situation. On the very few chances they got, they were able to score.
“A goal decided all. A goal that we couldn’t score ourselves. The Portuguese side were more efficient.
“I think that if we could have scored we could have forced them to play more offensively and we could have counter-attacked. At the end that goal is cruel.
“We didn’t score for a lot of reasons. We were able to score two goals against Germany while they got the possession. It is kind of the same game but the other way around.”
The mood at the Stade de France was a far cry from the opening night of the competition against Romania last month, when Payet fired a spectacular late winner – establishing himself as a firm favourite with home support in the process.
“I’ve been very well supported by the fans, it helped me a lot,” he added. “We had to stop at the very end. That’s football, that’s how it works.”
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