Ronaldo punches Portugal’s ticket to Euro 2012 semis
ASSOCIATED PRESS June 21, 2012 8:54PM
Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after winning the Euro 2012 football championships quarter-final match between the Czech Republic and Portugal on June 21, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINIFABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:53AM
WARSAW, Poland — All too often, Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo stuns the world with his fine footwork. On Thursday, he used the
determination of a raging bull to make the difference.
Ronaldo used his head to score the lone goal against the Czech Republic and send Portugal into the semifinals of the European Championship with a 1-0 victory.
After Ronaldo twice hit the post, he finally ran past his marker in the 79th minute, threw his body at the ball and headed a cross from Joao Moutinho straight at the ground and up past the flailing hands of Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech.
‘‘I remember in the last game I hit the post twice, too,’’ said Ronaldo, who scored his third goal in the last two matches. ‘‘The most important thing is we won and are in the semifinals. Now it is big smiles and good music.’’
Portugal, which will play Spain or France in the semifinals Wednesday, is a victory away from reaching the final of the European Championship for the second time in eight years. It also got there in 2004 before losing to Greece.
Ronaldo already had provided two goals to get Portugal past the Netherlands in the last group game, and his encore was the lone goal Thursday. His strike finally punished the negative tactics of the Czech Republic, which parked most of its players in front of Cech for much of the game. The Czech Republic didn’t have a shot on goal.
Still, the tactics worked for quite a while, as even luck seemed to go against Portugal. During first-half injury time, Ronaldo deadened a cross from Raul Meireles on his chest, turned and with two touches set up a right-footed shot that had Cech beaten before it crashed against the near post. In the 49th minute, Ronaldo clipped the post with a 25-meter free kick.
When Ronaldo finally scored and was mobbed by his teammates, he went over to the camera with a beaming smile for a victory kiss to the rest of the world.
‘‘We have suffered,’’ Portugal forward Nani said. ‘‘But we always wanted to win, and that’s what we showed. We were superior, then we scored. We really deserved this result.’’