Netherlands mount Euros comeback against Turkey to set up England semi

BERLIN: It’s time again for ageing Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo after his infamous Euro 2024 defeat.

France beat the 2016 winners 5-3 on penalties in Hamburg on Friday after a goalless quarter-final, with Ronaldo at best ineffective and at worst damaging his team’s aspirations.

At the 2022 World Cup, when former coach Fernando Santos benched Ronaldo for his team’s 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland, a bright future seemed on the horizon for Portugal.

However, his successor Roberto Martinez has supported the 39-year-old, who currently plays for Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr, with all his heart and soul.

With the former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker as favourites, Portugal stormed through the European Championship qualifiers with a 100% success rate and were among the favourites in Germany.

However, they have been very poor, with Ronaldo failing to find the net in five appearances this summer. The striker has failed to score in his last nine major tournament appearances.

Although Martinez boasted of good candidates to replace him, including Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and Paris Saint-Germain’s Goncalo Ramos, he refused to leave Ronaldo out of the squad for the match against France.

Didier Deschamps replaced Les Bleus icon Kylian Mbappe, who struggled to make an impact, but Ronaldo remained on the pitch even as the game got ahead of him.

In the last-16 win over Slovenia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in extra time and burst into tears in a distracting spectacle, but Martinez praised the striker’s emotional reaction after the match as evidence of his passion.

Many suspect, however, that those tears were not directed at Portugal, but at himself, as he failed to break the record for the oldest player to score a goal at the European Championships.

Ronaldo also ended his goal streak at all major international tournaments he participated in, and failed to break the record of 14 goals at the Euros.

He had 23 shots off target in Germany, with the most unlucky being arguably his golden opportunity in extra time against France.

Energetic winger Francisco Conceicao passed the ball to the striker who was a few metres from goal, but he somehow managed to fire the ball high over the crossbar.

It was a chance Ronaldo has taken advantage of hundreds of times throughout his career.

Ronaldo’s presence has a huge impact on Portugal’s game.

His teammates, including creative geniuses Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, often resort to crossing to find him.

Ronaldo is no longer quick enough to regularly break behind the defence, limiting the passing options for his team’s playmakers.

Not only did Martinez not seem strong enough to completely exclude Ronaldo from his plans, he failed to even replace the striker at the tournament, barring the shock 2-0 defeat to Georgia.

Ronaldo started for the match despite Portugal being a sure winner in the group while virtually every other player was rested.

After being eliminated by the French national team, the coach stated that no decision had yet been made regarding Ronaldo’s future on the international stage.

“We have just finished the game, everything is still too uncertain, we are failing as a team, at this stage there is no possibility to make individual decisions,” Martinez told reporters.

One reason the Spanish coach may not feel able to cut the umbilical cord is the “cult of Cristiano” that is evident among the team’s fans.

Attending a Portugal match is like swimming in a sea of ​​Ronaldo’s burgundy number 7 shirts, with some fans wearing masks depicting the face of their lucky charm.

Even opposing fans come to watch the Ronaldo circus, although these days there is more sulking and insulting than goals.

“(Our fans) wanted to see Ronaldo first and foremost, that’s why they came to the match in droves,” Slovenian midfielder Adam Gnezda Cerin noted after a friendly in March in which they beat Ronaldo and Portugal 2-0.

Although they were ultimately eliminated on penalties by Portugal at the Euros, at this level they once again exposed Ronaldo’s incompetence and France finished the job.

Ronaldo has admitted that this will be his last European Championship, but with Portugal now turning their attention to the 2026 World Cup, their chances would certainly improve if it weren’t for the stylish, unfashionable assassin.

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