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Redemption for tearful Ronaldo at 'last Euros'

Sports

10 days ago
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As Jan Oblak's hand tipped Cristiano Ronaldo's extra-time penalty on to the post, the Portuguese legend's dreams shattered in a moment.

He had "hit rock bottom".

The 39-year-old, who afterwards told Portuguese media this was his last Euros, bowed his head and burst into tears while team-mates raced to console their captain, with Slovenia threatening one of the Euros' biggest ever shocks.

A legendary European Championship career seemed set to end in the cruellest of ways.

Ronaldo's penalty was saved in extra time with the last-16 tie goalless, but just 15 minutes later he stepped up to the same spot to fire in the first of his country's shootout kicks.

Goalkeeper Diogo Costa then made Euros history with three penalty shootout saves as Portugal survived a humiliating exit, overcoming Slovenia to set-up a quarter-final tie with France.

More tears fell from Ronaldo - this time of pure joy and relief.

"Even the strongest people have their [bad] days. I was at rock bottom when the team needed me the most," said Ronaldo afterwards, before tearing up again.

"Sadness at the start is joy at the end. That's what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments. I feel sad and happy at the same time.

"But the important thing is to enjoy it. The team did an extraordinary job. We fought right to the end and I think we deserved it because we had more authority."

'He shouldn't be in tears'

Ronaldo will be 'relieved' as Portugal beat Slovenia on penalties

Portugal's talisman experienced every emotion imaginable in 120 minutes.

He is still yet to score at Euro 2024 and was in the spotlight throughout the match, showing his emotions and frustrations as he missed numerous chances.

His entrance had been greeted with a huge roar from the Portugal fans - the same supporters who chanted his name when his penalty was saved by Oblak.

At the other end, Slovenian supporters jeered, let off flares, banged drums and celebrated each time his efforts missed the target.

Despite 20 shots on goal in the tournament - the most by any player - he is yet to find the net. To make matters worse, he has missed three of his nine penalties at major tournaments.

"We all know that Cristiano is the hardest worker," said goalkeeper Costa, who was the hero on the night.

"I understand how frustrated he is because he devotes all his time to this. It’s a pleasure and an honour to be on the same team as him.

"We're a family, I really think this. I focus on making the best of these chances and I wanted to help the team. This is the most important thing.

"This is probably the best game of my life."

As his frustration grew through the night, Ronaldo fell to his knees, looking at the sky, pleading for luck to come his way.

He roared in frustration and air-punched the ground when crosses flew over his head, as he tried everything to become the oldest goalscorer at a European Championship.

With every free-kick that came and went, he has now scored just one of the 60 direct free-kicks he has attempted at major international tournaments, the desperation grew.

Later, he turned to supporters and waved his arms frantically, asking for more noise and praying for them to not give up.

When his spot-kick was saved, Portugal fans sang "Viva Ronaldo" after his emotional outburst was shown on the big screen in the Frankfurt Arena.

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin reacted in disbelief on BBC Radio 5 Live: "He missed a penalty kick. He shouldn't be in tears."

But when he eventually scored in the shootout, there were no flamboyant celebrations, just a nod to the fans behind the goal and an apology.

"It's hard enough going up to take a penalty anyway, but taking one in that situation when you've just missed a penalty at such a crucial time... unbelievable," said former England striker Alan Shearer on BBC One.

"This is why they are great players - because they have great mental strength.

"I think there are a couple of occasions where 10 years ago there's no doubt he would have got on the end of it. It has been a Ronaldo show, though, hasn't it?"

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, added: "Psychologically, we saw the tears and we saw the professionalism [to step up and score in the penalty shootout].

"It was remarkable from Costa. They relied upon him. Cristiano Ronaldo... It wasn't about him tonight. It was about that man [Costa]."

Analysis: How Diogo Costa's history-making shootout shaped Portugal's performance
'We are all very proud of our captain'


Having said this will be his last Euros, Ronaldo's desire to score a goal and achieve success with Portugal is even greater.

The Portugual skipper has already made history in Germany, by appearing at a record sixth European Championship.

He has also scored the most European Championship goals (14) and made the most appearances (28) at a Euros.

"There's a side of him where he becomes more of a team player for Portugal than any other club team he's played for," said former Scotland striker Nevin.

"The country means a lot to him. I don't think he won't care if he doesn't score, but the priority is on the results."

Ronaldo became the first player to score a penalty in three penalty shootouts at the Euros.

However, he has received criticism for his goal drought and that is unlikely to diminish after events in Frankfurt.

But Portugal boss Roberto Martinez says he is a "constant example" for all players in his homeland.

"When you see a player, the only player to play in six Euros, with the desire and that belief [like a] young man - those emotions are incredible for someone who has won everything and experienced everything," said Martinez.

"He doesn't need to care that much and that is why I thank him for the way he is. For caring for the group. For being someone who after missing a penalty was the first penalty taker [in the shootout].

"I knew for certain he had to be the first penalty taker and show us the way to the victory. We are all very, very proud of our captain.

"The dressing room was delighted and I think he gave us a lesson in having real high standards and never giving up. Life and football give you difficult moments and he is an example that we are really proud of in Portuguese football."

Ronaldo's misfortune in stats

He has now attempted over twice as many direct free-kicks in Euros competitions than any other player, failing to score, since records began in 1980.

Among players without a goal at Euro 2024 so far, Ronaldo has had the most shots (20).

It is his longest goalscoring drought in major tournaments. He has scored in every major tournament before this.

He has not netted in his last eight Euros or World Cup games.

Ronaldo had scored his last 24 penalties in all competitions but his record at the Euros is five scored and two missed - including in penalty shootouts.

For the first time in his career, Ronaldo failed to score in the group stage of a major tournament at Euro 2024.

source: BBC Sports