Cristiano Ronaldo tore the Czech Republic apart in a one-man show to seal a place for Portugal in the semi-finals of Euro 2012.
In a performance that showed why he is regarded by many as the best player in the world, Ronaldo hit the woodwork twice before, in the 78th minute, latching on to the end of a fine cross, hammering the ball into the ground, bouncing it up past the Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech. It was a goal fitting of the performance of the magical Portuguese super-star.
The Czech’s failed to produce a single shot on target, but they must get credit for a stout defensive job, keeping them in the game until the end.
Portugal will now face Spain or France for a place in the final. The Portuguese have an odd record – they’re the only country always to have advanced from group play, but yet have never won a major international event. With Ronaldo getting stronger and better with each game the last statistic could well change.
The Real Madrid forward was slow to ignite in this event, being fairly quiet in the opening game against Germany and looked disinterested in the second against Denmark. However in the do-or-die clash against the Netherlands he exploded into action with two shots that careened off the woodwork and two deadly strikes that sunk the Dutch. In all he had 12 shots on goal and Holland had no answer for his mastery.
The quarter-final clash in Warsaw, Poland, opened with the Czech Republic probing and pushing for an early lead, but after 15 minutes Ronaldo broke free of the shackles of the Czech defense, roaming at will and igniting his Portuguese team.
He was unlucky to be pulled up by the referee after weaving his way through the Czech defense, but followed up with a moment of pure skill, controlling Raul Meireles’s long pass on his chest, turning past a defender effortlessly and thumping a shot past the keeper but off the post.
He hit the post again early in the second half with a 30-yard free-kick that dipped around the Czech wall. It was the fourth time he hit the woodwork in just two games.
But the breakthrough came 12 minutes from time when Joao Moutinho broke down the right to send over a cross that Ronaldo met. It was his 66th goal for club and country in an incredible season