Portugal beats Netherlands 2-1 at Euro 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo’s smile and swagger were back, and so was his

scoring touch.

The Real Madrid forward finally found the form he was lacking at

the European Championship, scoring twice in a sparkling performance

Sunday to give Portugal a 2-1 win over the Netherlands and a spot

in the quarterfinals.

Poised to be written off as one of the tournament’s flops,

Ronaldo put a miserable two-game goalless run at Euro 2012 behind

him.

”Now everything is possible,” said Ronaldo, who went a long

way toward silencing the critics who accused him of failing to

reproduce the form he showed in a sensational 60-goal club

season.

Ronaldo failed to shine in Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Germany and

3-2 win over Denmark, but he was devastating against the Dutch. He

produced an equalizer with his first goal of the tournament in the

28th minute and scored the winner in the 74th. He had a half dozen

other attempts at goal, including a low drive that clipped the post

in the 16th, and he set up two clear chances for teammates.

”Ronaldo got so much criticism in the last game and he is back

now,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. ”That is how fast

things can change.”

On Sunday, Ronaldo upstaged Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and

Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, the leading scorers in the Bundesliga

and Premier League. Neither was able to find the net at the

Metalist Stadium, although midfielder Rafael van der Vaart gave the

Dutch an early lead.

After that, Ronaldo stole the show.

As Portugal cranked up the pressure, Ronaldo probed the Dutch

back line and tied it off of Joao Pereira’s pass. It was the kind

of chance he took so often at Real Madrid last season but wasted in

Portugal’s opening matches.

For his second, Ronaldo received a pass from former Manchester

United teammate Nani, coolly wrong-footed his marker and tapped the

ball past the goalkeeper.

”This was our best game so far,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento

said, declining to single out Ronaldo. ”What is most important is

that we kept fighting after we lost our opening game.”

After his goals, and at the final whistle, Ronaldo beckoned his

teammates to celebrate, and they mobbed him. He pulled on a shirt

with ”Junior” printed on it, and explained later it was for his

son’s second birthday.

Up next for Ronaldo and his teammates is a quarterfinal match

against the Czech Republic on Thursday in Warsaw.

”We really deserved to qualify for the quarterfinals,” Ronaldo

said.

Euro 2012 was expected to provide a showcase for Ronaldo, but

his explosive Real Madrid form had deserted him. And when he’s not

on form, Portugal often looks tame and ordinary.

Opposition fans mocked him whenever he put a foot wrong or

failed to pull off one of his ball tricks. He was taunted with

chants of ”Messi” – his Barcelona and Argentina rival. And

against Germany and Denmark, Ronaldo was often short-tempered with

his team when he didn’t get the ball supply he’s used to at Real

Madrid.

But against the Netherlands, he was the consummate captain.

Needing a win to have a chance at staying in the tournament, the

disappointing Dutch fielded an impressive attacking lineup that

needed to score at least two goals. It produced one.

”We started quite well but we were playing against one of the

better teams today,” Van der Vaart said. ”We lost three times. We

were bad and we don’t deserve to go through.”

Lineups:

Portugal: Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Joao

Pereira, Pepe, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Carlos Custodio, 72),

Nani (Rolaldo, 87), Miguel Veloso, Helder Postiga (Nelson Oliveira,

64), Cristiano Ronaldo.

Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Joris Mathijsen, Gregory Van

der Wiel, Ron Vlaar, Jetro Willems (Ibrahim Afellay, 67), Nigel De

Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar,

Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie.