Cristiano Ronaldo conjures tricks aplenty for Portugal - except when it really mattered against Spain

 

It felt wrong that Cristiano Ronaldo did not take one. Portugal's captain had done everything else last night: left-winger, centre-forward, creative midfielder. He must have been waiting to take the fifth kick, the final kick, to win the shoot-out against Spain. But he never got the chance, as Bruno Alves missed and Cesc Fabregas scored.

And so Ronaldo, arguably the most influential player in the history of his country, was left powerless as they went out. He could not help them through the shoot-out and into the final. He could not atone for his miss at the end of normal time, which could have saved so much hassle.

Ronaldo must have been furious when Raul Meireles' last-minute pass arrived just behind him. The Real Madrid player had to readjust his feet but could only shoot over the bar. He had spent all evening hunting and probing for chances, using his versatility to find the gap through which he would send Portugal to Kiev on Sunday.

There is never a sense of a blind alley with Ronaldo. He started on the left wing, worried Spain, but when he did not score he moved inside. As a centre-forward he hit two powerful shots, but sensing space elsewhere he dropped deep, threading passes, winning free-kicks, but still not scoring. All night he took it upon himself to deliver the win. And as much as his 90-minute miss would have hurt, not even taking a penalty must have been worse.

Ronaldo knew from the start what was needed to beat Spain. The reigning world and European champions have a style of play: they pass and pass and pass until their web stifles the opposition. The longer a game goes on, the more deadly they are. Opponents need to strike early.

So the Portugal skipper led them into battle. From the opening minutes he was bounding down the left, harrying Gerard Pique and Alvaro Arbeloa, looking for a slip. His first run came after 13 minutes when he stormed down the left, abandoning Pique and reaching the byline. From there he swung in a nearly perfect cross which Iker Casillas stole from Luis Nani's forehead.

Three minutes later he went again. He burnt down the left channel, this time confronted by Pique and Arbeloa. He ducked in between them and was brought down. The free-kick, though, was from too narrow an angle, and Ronaldo could not avoid the wall.

Versatility, though, is one of the greatest strengths of Ronaldo. He was a great winger before he was a great forward. And so he moved inside as he led the search for an opening. Working, this time, on the edge of the box, the brilliant Joao Moutinho flicked him the ball. Ronaldo spun and volleyed, but did not impart enough control to keep it the exciting side of the cross-bar.

Sensing space in the same area, Ronaldo stayed alert. Next time Moutinho found him, Ronaldo took the ball down and spun inside Pique. Another left-footed shot came, but this one flew just past the post.

Two shots, both wide, and Ronaldo moved on. More than anything else he believes in efficiency. Having exhausted the opportunities on the left and up front, he did not hold on like a romantic, but searched for more space, and dropped deep.

Robbing Sergio Busquets in midfield, Ronaldo ran at Sergio Ramos who brought him down and was booked. Again, scaring the Spanish into giving him space, Ronaldo started to pick passes. Twice he threaded Hugo Almeida into the left channel. But shooting, clearly, could not be trusted to his team-mates, so Ronaldo started to make the chances for himself. He won a free-kick from Arbeloa, which he hit over. He won one from Xabi Alonso, was handed a second try after encroachment, but could still only shoot over. But the real frustrations were yet to come.

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk