Ronaldo plans to cap a magic year by sinking Spain
Portugal’s Real Madrid forward has had a phenomenal season with his club, and given his current form, he could cause the world champions severe difficulties in Wednesday’s Euro 2012 semi-final.
By Halima Ali
Cristiano, nos vemos pronto (“Cristiano, we’ll see you soon”) screamed the front cover of Marca on Friday, such was the confidence that Spain would brush aside the French in Saturday’s European championship quarter-final and meet Ronaldo’s Portugal in the semis.
And brush them aside they did, with little difficulty, despite La Roja’s unconvincing win in the final group game against Croatia. The France team – which before the 2-0 defeat to Sweden in their final group game had been on a 23-match unbeaten streak – produced very little in the game.
Any hope for the French disappeared after the Sweden loss, when dressing room clashes involving Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri were widely reported. The lack of cohesion showed on the pitch and Les Bleus were undone by two Xabi Alonso goals on Saturday night.
Alonso, who reached the milestone of 100 caps for Spain, opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Andrés Iniesta played a pass inside for Jordi Alba, who delivered a deep cross from the left flank to Alonso, who then raced in to beat Hugo Lloris with a downward header directed back across goal.
Alonso later sealed the win in the 90th minute, sending Lloris the wrong way from the penalty spot after Anthony Réveillère bundled Pedro Rodríguez over, but despite the Real Madrid midfielder describing the win as “phenomenal”, the manner in which they played was also described by some as boring.
The striker-less formation favoured by Vicente del Bosque has left many criticising the reigning European and world champions, who retain possession for long periods of time but rarely score. Supporters would argue that this formula has served them well and they would appear to be well on their way to the final but for one man standing in their way, Cristiano Ronaldo – who is seemingly on a one-man mission.
The Messi obsession
Just over a week ago, things were not looking too good for the Real Madrid forward, who despite his efforts and desperation to get off the mark was struggling to score. Constant chants of “Messi, Messi, Messi” in Portugal’s group game against Denmark seemed to have pushed him too far: “Do you know where Messi was this time last year?” he asked a journalist. “He was getting knocked out of the Copa América in his own country. I think that’s worse, don’t you?” The outburst spoke volumes about his frustrations.
The cure was to come in the final group game against The Netherlands, which saw him score twice to send Portugal through to the quarter-finals, where his single goal against the Czechs was enough to take his country to the semi-finals. That feat alone is impressive considering few had given the small Iberian nation much chance of getting out of the ‘group of death’ which included both Germany and the Dutch.
Ronaldo, who came into the Euros off the back of a season in which he was instrumental in his Real Madrid side winning La Liga for the first time in four years, is already leaving his mark on the tournament.
He became the first Portuguese to score in five different major international tournaments with his goals against The Netherlands and his header against the Czechs gave him six goals combined in all his European Championship appearances – a feat only bettered by Alan Shearer who scored seven and Michel Platini who managed nine.
The former Manchester United player is also well aware of what his performances are doing for his FIFA Ballon d’Or prospects, in a year that saw Lionel Messi outscore him in the Spanish league.
Portugal has produced world-class players previously, with Eusébio and another former Real Madrid player, Luís Figo, both achieving international recognition and tremendous success with their club sides. But neither was able to propel their country to glory in a major international tournament. And while Portugal have other strong players, with Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho and Raul Meireles, it is Ronaldo leading the charge.
In 2004, a 19-year-old Ronaldo sobbed as his side were defeated by Greece in the final of the Euros which took place on his home soil. On Wednesday night, he will be looking to book his country a place in the final for the second time and get another chance to write a new page in Portugal’s history.
Spain may be looking to do the same as they aim to become the first country to win three major tournaments back to back, but, they will have to go through Cristiano first.
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Published: Jun 25 2012
Category: Portugal News, Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=6452
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