Portugal are such a bunch of jammy doughnuts. They haven’t actually won a match in normal time at these Euros, and the only match they have actually won came right at the end of extra time in the last 16 against Croatia. They didn’t win any of their group games and were within a whisker of going out of the tournament in their final group match against Hungary before Ronaldo – who else? – came to their rescue.
Now, Ronaldo has come in for some flak at this tournament. He has looked out of sorts, lacklustre, frequently no more than a peripheral figure in games, but it’s funny how he comes through when it really matters. Great players always do.
When Portugal were in trouble against Hungary, going behind three times, it was Ronaldo who set up Nani for the first equaliser and then scored himself twice to restore parity and ensure Portugal’s place in the last 16. Against Croatia, Ronaldo was barely in the game, yet, with the match heading for a penalty shootout, there he was, lurking at the far post to hit the first shot on goal in the entire match, which led to Quaresma’s winning header.
In the quarter-final against Poland, it was Ronaldo once again, who saved the day after Poland had taken an early lead with Lewandowski. He exchanged a super one-two with emerging talent Renato Sanches, backheeling the ball to the exciting teenager, who switched feet with aplomb and drove a deflected left footed shot past the keeper. Ronaldo was also unlucky not to get a penalty after being unceremoniously shoved off the ball. And when the match inevitably went to penalties, he was the first player to step up for his country – and score.
Many believe that Ronaldo has had a rather poor tournament, and by his extraordinary standards he has looked rather ordinary far too often. But without him, Portugal would not have got out of the group stages, let alone made it to the semi-final. The secret to being a successful player isn’t playing well all the time; it’s about doing the job when it matters most. As the saying goes, form is temporary, class is permanent. Ronaldo remains the classiest of them all.