Cristiano Ronaldo erupted from his scoring slump as he netted his first two goals at Euro 2016 and put Portugal into the last 16. Ronaldo’s strikes, the first with a spectacular back heel and the second with a header, helped Portugal earn a 3-3 draw with Hungary, sending both teams through.
“Our priority was to win the match. We failed to do that, but we hit the bottom line because we wanted to qualify,” Ronaldo said. “I am happy because the team was in dire straits. Three times we were going home and we had to chase down the scoreboard.”
The goals came in the 50th and 62nd minutes, and they made Ronaldo the first player to score in four consecutive European Championships. “This is what Cristiano is all about,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “He feeds on goals.”
Portugal ended up with three points in Group F from three draws, advancing as one of the top four third-place teams. The Portuguese will face Croatia on Saturday for a spot in the quarter-finals. Hungary won the group with five points, followed by Iceland in second with the same number of points.
After failing to find the target in his team’s opening two draws, the 31-year-old Ronaldo rediscovered his goalscoring touch at Stade de Lyon with his 59th and 60th career goals for Portugal.
“We know he is a world-class player,” Hungary coach Bernd Storck said. “We didn’t give Portugal a lot of chances, but of course when Ronaldo has the ball he can score.”
Ronaldo wiped away a week of frustrations in France that led to him losing his composure just hours before the match when he responded to a TV reporter’s question by grabbing his microphone and tossing it into a nearby lake.
Ronaldo’s first contribution came after he had again failed to convert a series of free-kicks. Instead, he turned playmaker to set up Nani for an equaliser just before half-time, 23 minutes after 37-year-old Zoltan Gera had given Hungary a 1-0 lead.
Balazs Dzsudzsak’s first of two goals, a deflected free-kick, put Hungary back in front in the 47th minute. But moments later it was Ronaldo’s turn to get his first goal of Euro 2016.
Dzsudzsak struck again five minutes later with a shot that grazed Nani before looping over goalkeeper Rui Patricio to restore Hungary’s lead before Ronaldo came to Portugal’s rescue with his second.
HUNGARY: Kiraly, Lang, Guzmics, Juhasz, Korhut, Gera (Bese 46), Pinter, Dzsudzsak, Elek, Lovrencsics (Stieber 82), Szalai (Nemeth 70). Subs not used: Dibusz, Kadar, Fiola, Nagy, Bode, Kleinheisler,
Nikolic, Priskin, Gulacsi.
PORTUGAL: Rui Patricio, Vieirinha, Pepe, Carvalho, Eliseu, Andre Gomes (Quaresma 61), William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho (Renato Sanches 46), Joao Mario, Ronaldo, Nani (Danilo Pereira 81). Subs not used: Lopes, Bruno Alves, Fonte, Guerreiro, Eder, Rafa,
Cedric, Adrien Silva, Eduardo.