Ronaldo puts Portugal into Euro 2012 semifinals
All too often, Cristiano Ronaldo stuns the world with his fine
footwork. On Thursday, the Portugal superstar used the
determination of a raging bull to make the difference.
Ronaldo used his head to score the lone goal against the Czech
Republic and send his team into the European Championship
semifinals with a 1-0 victory.
After Ronaldo twice hit the post, he finally ran past his marker
in the 79th minute with all the instincts of an all-out striker,
threw his body at the ball and headed a cross from Joao Moutinho
straight at the ground and up past the flailing hands of Czech
Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech.
”I remember in the last game I hit the post twice, too,” said
Ronaldo, who scored his third goal in the last two matches. ”But
the most important thing is I managed to score this time, we won
and are in the semifinals. Now it is big smiles and good
Portugal, which will play either Spain or France in the
semifinals in Donetsk, Ukraine, next Wednesday, is one game away
from reaching its second European Championship final in eight
Ronaldo already provided some leadership and two goals to get
past the Netherlands in the decisive last group game, and his
encore was the lone goal on Thursday.
”It’s just that Ronaldo is better. He can play with his head,
with both feet,” Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek said. ”That
decided the match.”
Ronaldo’s strike finally punished the negative tactics of the
Czechs, who had parked most of their players in front of Cech for
much of the game. The Czechs did not have a single shot on goal,
and only two attempts during the whole match. The Euro 2004
runners-up had 20 attempts.
Still, for quite a while, the Czech tactics seemed to work, as
even luck seemed to go against the Portuguese. In first-half injury
time, Ronaldo deadened a cross from Raul Meireles on his chest,
turned and with two touches set up a right-foot shot that had Cech
beaten before it crashed against the near post. He threw up his
eyes skyward in despair, and for long the desperation would
In the 49th, Ronaldo clipped the post with a 25-meter free kick
as pressure immediately increased in a match where the Czechs
seemed to be looking for little else than a rare counterattack
ahead of a penalty shootout.
”In the second half, we lost our strength and determination and
they had one chance that decided the match,” Bilek said.
And when Ronaldo finally scored and was mobbed by his teammates,
he went over to the camera with a beaming smile for a victory kiss
to the rest of the world.
”We have suffered,” Portugal forward Nani said. ”But we
always wanted to win and that’s what we showed. We were superior,
then we scored and we really deserved this result.”
At the final whistle, Ronaldo dropped to his knees with clenched
fists, then rose as Miguel Veloso jumped into his arms in
celebration. Twice in a row now, he had dominated games for
Portugal like he had never done in four previous major tournaments.
And as a result, Portugal is still in the hunt for its first big
The Czechs started without captain Tomas Rosicky, whose Achilles
tendon injury hadn’t yet recovered enough for him to start in the
country’s most important game since it lost in the Euro 2004
Instead, Bilek took the daring decision to throw in 21-year-old
Vladimir Darida into the high-tension match for his first
international start after he was a substitute in two warm-up
Ronaldo wandered from left to right and back again looking for
space, and exemplified Portuguese frustration with the conservative
tactics of the Czechs.
To add to Portuguese worries, striker Helder Postiga had to be
stretchered off with an apparent right hamstring injury in the 40th
minute and was replaced by Hugo Almeida.
In the first minute of the second half, Meireles served Almeida
an ideal cross in the center, yet he inexplicably missed target
from 10 meters (yards) out, highlighting Portugal’s troubles with
finding an all-out striker. In the 58th, Almeida’s header was
disallowed for offside.
”We had a lot of chances,” Ronaldo said. ”We had a great
unity on the pitch and that is why we have reached our goal.”
Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky,
Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok, Vladimir Darida (Jan Rezek,
61), Tomas Hubschman (Tomas Pekhart, 86), Petr Jiracek, Vaclav
Pilar, Jaroslav Plasil, Milan Baros.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Joao
Pereira, Pepe, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Rolando, 88), Nani
(Custodio, 84), Miguel Veloso, Helder Postiga (Hugo Almeida, 40),