Portugal beats Netherlands 2-1 at Euro 2012
Cristiano Ronaldo’s smile and swagger were back, and so was his
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
”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
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
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
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.”
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.