Euro 2012: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands - Cristiano Ronaldo shows class
CRISTIANO Ronaldo inspired Portugal’s passage into the quarter-finals with the two goals that ended dismal Netherlands participation at Euro 2012.
Scorers: Portugal - Ronaldo (28, 74); Netherlands - Van der Vaart (11)
Ronaldo was irresistible throughout as he led his side to a last-eight appointment with the Czech Republic in Warsaw on Thursday.
The 27-year-old responded to criticism of his form with a mesmerising display topped by a goal in each half to ensure Portugal finished the “group of death” as runners-up behind Germany.
Dressed in funereal black instead of their trademark orange, the Dutch were outplayed for large spells.
Again, a team with sparkling individual talent left a major tournament without a trophy to show for it, amid more rumours of strife in the camp.
Coach Bert van Marwijk will undoubtedly face calls to quit from the vociferous Netherlands fans and critics such as legend Johan Cruyff.
It was the first time in more than a decade that the Dutch failed to reach the second round at either the World Cup or a Euros.
Worst of all, the Oranje’s brand of fluid, classy football seems to increasingly be disappearing into the shades of history.
Van Marwijk shook up his starting eleven after opening losses to Denmark and Germany, looking to Ron Vlaar to add steel to the back line, Van der Vaart to create in the middle and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to spice up the attack.
But, apart from a fine early strike from Rafael van der Vaart, the Netherlands were poor, ensuring a team considered among the pre-tournament favourites finished bottom of Group B without a point to their name.
The match was 11 minutes old when Dutch hopes of reaching the quarter-finals were given a shot in the arm through van der Vaart.
Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben weaved a path to the edge of the area where Van der Vaart was waiting to steer an inch-perfect finish into the bottom-left corner beyond the reach of Rui Patricio for his 19th international goal on his 99th appearance.
A moment of madness from Gregory van der Wiel almost saw Netherlands concede the advantage but, having inexplicably passed the ball to Helder Postiga, he watched in relief as the Portugal striker shot wide with only Maarten Stekelenburg to beat.
Stekelenburg then kept out a well-struck header by Ronaldo, who would not be denied in the 28th minute.
The initial damage was done by Joao Pereira’s defence- splitting pass and Ronaldo rewarded his vision with a composed first touch, followed by a slick finish.
That made Ronaldo the first Portuguese player to find the net in five major tournaments.
Manchester United winger Nani missed narrowly, but it was Portugal’s captain who was the prominent figure on the pitch as he twice went close to seizing the lead.
The Dutch defence was in danger over being over-run with Ronaldo cast as their tormentor in chief with Portugal pushing for a second.
The Real Madrid forward continued to attack the Dutch early in the second half, but his side should have trailed in the 53th minute.
Wesley Sneijder crossed from the left to the unmarked Ron Vlaar only for his clumsy attempted header to drift off-target from close range.
Postiga had a goal disallowed for offside before Fabio Coentrao was denied by sharp reactions from Stekelenburg, who then frustrated Nani from point-blank range after a marauding run by Ronaldo.
The Portugal wingers combined once again in the 74th minute, and this time the Dutch cracked.
A swift counter attack ended with Nani feeding a long pass to Ronaldo who dummied his shot, took the ball into space and prodded home.
Van der Vaart curled an effort onto the right post as Holland produced a strong finish, but there was still time for Ronaldo to hit the woodwork.
“Once again we showed how united we are as a team,” Portugal midfielder Miguel Veloso said afterwards. “It wasn’t easy to start with a defeat. The secret was our defending, our humility.”
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Meireles (Custodio 72), Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Nani (Rolando 87), Postiga (Nelson Oliveira 64), Ronaldo. Subs not used: Eduardo, Almeida, Quaresma, Ricardo Costa, Ruben Micael, Varela, Miguel Lopes, Hugo Viana, Beto.
Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Willems (Afellay 67), Mathijsen, Vlaar, Van Der Wiel, Van der Vaart, Nigel De Jong, Sneijder, van Persie, Robben, Huntelaar. Subs not used: Vorm, Heitinga, Bouma, Van Bommel, Kuyt, Schaars, Strootman, Luuk De Jong, Narsingh, Boulahrouz, Krul.
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