Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

If not with goals, Cristiano Ronaldo leads Portugal with grit and flair at Euro 2008

If not with goals, Cristiano Ronaldo leads Portugal with grit and flair at Euro 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo came into the European Championship with the monicker "the world's best player." On Saturday, he ended up captaining his country to an all important opening win against Turkey.
Oh, and also, he was deeply involved in both goals in the 2-0 win, sent a free kick off the inside of the post, spread around some great crosses, and had a few dazzling runs. Literally, up to the final whistle, he was fighting hard for the last ball.
For anyone less than Cristiano Ronaldo, it would have been a standout performance. For Cristiano Ronaldo, who gets rated by the magic he weaves, it was merely good.
He always said Euro 2008 was not about himself. Ever since arriving in Switzerland, he largely blocked himself out of that great saga of perhaps the world's two greatest clubs fighting for his services _ will Ronaldo fall for Real Madrid, or stay faithful to Manchester United.
"I'm not worrying about my future," Ronaldo said. "I'm playing in the Euro right now and after it's over I'll discuss the future. It's not affecting me now."
Only the green-red-and-gold colors of his national flag count during the tournament. Add to that the fluorescent captain's armband he inherited when Nuno Gomes left in the 69th minute, and he proved the perfect Portuguese citizen.
"The idea of passing on this captain's role was to give him a boost, giving him that extra 'umpf' to give it all toward the end," admiring Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "An extra 'umpf,' an extra pass, an extra dribble and an extra goal."
After a frustrating first half, he fully opened up.
"I didn't get nervous because the ball wasn't going in," Ronaldo said. "We remained calm and knew that we were playing well and would have more chances."
On the first goal in the 61st minute, he proved again he has learned to look well beyond himself.
When a poor pass still found him on the left he had two options: one was to go further down the left, flashing his trademark tricks which would yield little beyond personal gain. Instead, he realized Pepe had more space in the center and served him back the ball. A few seconds later, Pepe had scored the breakthrough goal after a one-two with Nuno Gomes. To the side, Cristiano Ronaldo was pumping his fist.
In injury time, he turned one man, was loose on the left and picked out Joao Moutinho in the center, who set up Raul Meireles for the killer blow.
Half of the 30,000-capacity stadium became a sea of celebrating green-red-and-gold, the colors of the seafaring nation which already gave football the likes of Eusebio and Figo.
The two looked on from the stands and saw it was good.
Ronaldo is now poised to take over that mantle. And unlike his successors, he still has a shot of giving the eternally gifted Portuguese a first major international title.
Four years ago, he already was part of the team that reached the Euro 2004 final at home, only to lose in Lisbon against the underdog Greece. Tears ensued.
Two years ago at the World Cup was no different, when vicious fouls on him showed what a truly great player he had become. But in the decisive game for Portugal, a semifinal loss to France, he again had no decisive impact.
This time though, it must be different.
"We produce the beautiful game. We have to win something sometime," said Portuguese fan Jose Almeida, who runs a concierge firm in nearby Nyon and is convinced Ronaldo will remain the team player.
"He plays for his national shirt. He thinks of all 11, except himself," the 39-year-old Almeida said.
The match set out as vintage Ronaldo of a few years ago. A first fake, a first touch and a first crash, which the linesman considered a dive. Even though he protested his innocence, it is a complaint which has been hounding him for years.
Marked tightly by Hakan Balta, Ronaldo found no room for impact in the first half hour. At that point, he switched from the right to left and it liberated him.
At halftime, the stadium screens showed fans lauding his near-godly status. He still had to come through at that stage.
And he did.


Updated : 2021-06-23 06:42 GMT+08:00