Ronaldo doesn’t make the same mistake: 5 things about Portugal vs Poland
Here are five things to know about Portugal’s quarterfinal win over Poland in Marseille.euro 2016 Updated: Jul 01, 2016 08:35 IST
Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make the same mistake twice.
In a semifinal penalty shoot-out against Spain at the 2012 European Championship, Portugal’s star played no part.
He was fifth in line to step up to the spot. But, by then, the match was already lost. Spain had won the shootout 4-2 and Ronaldo never even got to take his kick.
Against Poland on Thursday, Ronaldo was first in line.
The end result was a victory that sends Portugal to the semifinals for a fifth time.
It will next play the winner of Belgium’s match against Wales.
Here are five things to know about Portugal’s quarterfinal win in Marseille.
Portugal’s new star
With three-time world player of the year Ronaldo nearer to the end of his career than the beginning, the search was already on for Portugal’s next star.
Look no further.
At just 18, and making only his ninth appearance for the national side, Renato Sanches stole Ronaldo’s thunder in his first start at the European Championship.
Sanches’ equaliser for Portugal that cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s early goal oozed quality and remarkable self-confidence for a player so young and inexperienced on such a big stage.
Sanches both started the move and finished it. Running, full of attacking intent, headlong into the Polish box, he flicked the ball wide to the quick-thinking Nani, who tricked the Polish defence by heeling it straight back to Sanches.
Caressing the ball onward with his right foot, Sanches set himself up for a left-footed thump. A touch off Grzegorz Krychowiak made an already tough job nigh impossible for Polish ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski, who couldn’t get fingers to the ball despite his dive.
The goal wasn’t Sanches’ only contribution. The attacking midfielder was all over the pitch. He harassed Polish players and selflessly tracked back — unlike Ronaldo — from his right wing to help out with defence and then get Portugal going forward again.
Portugal’s youngest ever player to be called up for a major tournament, surpassing the mark previously held by Ronaldo, is now heading to Bayern Munich, which paid Benfica 35 million euros ($40 million) for him.
Could be a bargain.
Who stole the real Ronaldo?
Before scoring Portugal’s first penalty in the 5-3 shootout win, Ronaldo had been just a shadow of his usual self.
Swinging a left leg at what could have been a match-winning goal in the last minutes of normal time but then missing the ball entirely: Was that Ronaldo or some impostor?
That failure to connect with a golden opportunity to break the deadlocked score of 1-1 wasn’t Ronaldo’s only glitch.
He squandered a first half chance, scuffing the ball wide. Through on goal again in the second half, he hit into the side netting.
And he thumped a free kick from 35 metres out straight into the Polish wall.
Had he scored in normal time, Ronaldo would have matched Michel Platini’s tournament record of nine European Championship goals.
Instead, the accumulated misses made him look human.
Ronaldo should have had a penalty
Felix Brych has mounds of experience, having officiated World Cup, Champions League and other matches. But the German referee made a very debatable call in the first half, not awarding what looked like a penalty for Ronaldo.
In the heart of the Polish defence, Michal Pazdan stuck to Ronaldo like a shadow. He got too close in the 30th minute, shoving Ronaldo in the back and to the ground as the Portuguese forward prepared to receive Nani’s in-bound cross in a threatening position in the box.
The Real Madrid star’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears. Ronaldo looked terribly aggrieved, and understandably so.
Like him, loathe him but also respect him
In the tunnel before kick-off, Portuguese defender Pepe was all sweetness and light, high-fiving the kids who accompanied the players onto the pitch.
But the whistle brought the fighter out of him.
By far the most experienced player in the Portuguese back line, with more caps (76) than the three other defenders — Jose Fonte (14); Cedric (13) and Eliseu (18) — combined, Pepe provided leadership and stability at the back.
Few players divide opinion quite like the Real Madrid defender, notorious for his gamesmanship.
But he was on his best behaviour against Poland.
He got a leg to a dangerous first-half shot from Arkadiusz Milik, diverting it away.
He used his body to thwart Krychowiak as the midfielder made a scorching second-half run for the Portuguese area.
Most important, his cool head and instructions to other players helped the team recover after Lewandowski scored the second-fastest goal in tournament history, just 100 seconds into the match.
Portugal’s weak link
Poland quickly found a soft spot in Portugal’s defence, and exploited it ruthlessly.
At 24, Cedric Soares was the youngest player in the Portuguese back four and the defender with the least national team experience.
Polish winger Kamil Grosicki targeted the rightback with his first foray into Portugal’s half, collecting a pass from Lewandowski and then using his superior speed to overhaul the Southampton defender, who just — but only just — managed to get a foot to the ball and kick away the danger.
It was an early warning for what happened seconds later: A long Polish pass bounced in front of Cedric and straight over his head to Grosicki, who was lurking behind him and then tore away downfield to centre a cross to Lewandowski.
The Bayern Munich striker scored with his first touch, right-footing the ball into the Portuguese net.
It was Lewandowski’s first goal in 645 minutes of European Championship football, since he scored against Greece in Poland’s first match of Euro 2012.