Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Ronaldo’s ego almost sent Portugal crashing out


The night Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego almost sent Portugal crashing out of Euro 2024

Portugal 0-0 Slovenia (3-0 pens): Diogo Costa was the hero of the night, making three saves in the penalty shootout after a self-absorbed Ronaldo missed a spot-kick in extra time

Pete Hall
Frankfurt Arena
Ronaldo cries after missing penalty against Slovenia at Euro 2024

The Cristiano Ronaldo show rumbled into Frankfurt, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, unless you are a selfie-hunting, “siuuuu” screaming fanboy that is.

Portugal progressing via penalty shootout success over Slovenia to book a quarter-final date with France will be billed as a Ronaldo redemption story, but after a night where he did his utmost to make an entire match about himself, the veteran superstar, in tears mid-match, frankly doesn’t deserve it.

Instead, Diogo Costa must embrace all the acclaim that should be coming his way, after three other-worldly saves in the shootout to send a below-par Portugal through.

But let’s first talk about Ronaldo. The first half was especially embarrassing from the player who doesn’t think twice about putting personal gain over the collective. It was like watching Sylvester Stallone in his more recent films. He wants to still do his own stunts, and insists on doing so, but it’s a tough watch for all those around him forced to play along.

The Frankfurt Arena was perfect for the Audience with Cristiano ITV Special. Each time Ronaldo tried, and failed, to break his tournament duck, multiple replays were shown on the big screens hanging from the closed roof, giving it the feel of an NBA match, enabling spectators to ignore what was actually going on elsewhere on the pitch in real-time.

One particular first-half free-kick was especially cringeworthy. Ronaldo summoned Ruben Dias and Pepe over to relay his plan, before heading over to designated set-piece taker Bernardo Silva and pulling rank.

Ronaldo took free-kick after free-kick against Slovenia...
Ronaldo took free-kick after free-kick against Slovenia... (Getty Images)
... but failed to find the net with his efforts
... but failed to find the net with his efforts (AP)

He then lined it up in his trademark manner, with a multitude of red shirts to aim at in the middle and proceeded to hammer the ball high, wide and not-so handsome.

One set-piece Ronaldo took did come close to breaking the deadlock, but fizzed over the top. He finished the half having taken his tournament shot tally to 15 do far, without finding the net from any of them. The waterworks almost started there and then.

The closest Portugal came to breaking the deadlock in a first half they dominated was through Fulham’s Joao Palhinha, the midfielder’s drilled effort clipping the post and rolling wide.

A remarkable sight greeted the start of the first half, as Bruno Fernandes appeared set to take a free-kick from a goalscoring position, only for the Manchester United skipper to throw a dummy and allow Ronaldo to fire a ferocious strike straight at Jan Oblak in the Slovenia goal.

The main act in the performance, Ronaldo’s gunslinger bit, rumbled on as another set piece, his 60th at a major tournament, flew into a familiar row behind the goal. From those 60 attempts, only one has gone in.

One more opportunity came and went in normal time, Ronaldo firing straight at Oblak from a good position, taking us to extra time.

And the unravelling of sport’s most petulant diva took on all new levels of hilarity in the first period of extra time, after Diogo Jota was fouled in the penalty area.

Ronaldo’s extra-time penalty was saved by Jan Oblak
Ronaldo’s extra-time penalty was saved by Jan Oblak (EPA)
Ronaldo weeps after missing from the spot
Ronaldo weeps after missing from the spot (Getty Images)

Only one man was going to take it, neglecting the fact Fernandes is more clinical from 12 yards. The penalty was struck well enough, but Oblak sprang to his left to make a sensational stop.

The flares came out in the Slovenia section, as if they had scored themselves. Then came the crocodile tears, as Ronaldo’s teammates rallied around him as the first period drew to a close, perhaps reminding him they were also on the pitch too. It is unclear at this stage if any tear ducts actually saw any moisture passing through them.

His record from the penalty spot is only slightly better than his free-kick return. Ronaldo has now failed to convert three of the nine penalties he’s taken at major international tournaments.

The striker Arsenal missed out on signing this summer, Benjamin Sesko, could have snatched victory at the death, after a blunder from Pepe, up well past his bed time, but Costa made a smart stop.

Diogo Costa saves a penalty from Slovenia’s Josip Ilicic
Diogo Costa saves a penalty from Slovenia’s Josip Ilicic (Reuters)
Bernardo Silva celebrates with Diogo Costa
Bernardo Silva celebrates with Diogo Costa (Getty Images)

The script writers must also not have stayed up late as a true redemption story, Josip Ilicic, saw his first spot kick saved, and Slovenia never recovered.

Ronaldo looked hesitant as he placed his shootout spot kick down, but this time he found the net. Portugal sailed through from there on in, thanks to Costa’s insane reflexes. The celebrations were wild, with one man more reserved than everyone else. Perhaps let this be a lesson, Cristiano, if you want to make everything about you, there may not always be a happy ending.

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