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Ronaldo drama: Portugal after penalty shootout in quarter-finals

Ronaldo drama: Portugal after penalty shootout in quarter-finals

The European Championship saw its first penalty shootout, with a happier ending for the Portuguese. The brave Slovenians were eliminated.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal can continue to dream of their second European title after 2016 despite the star missing a penalty. The favourites beat Slovenia 3-0 on penalties in the round of 16. No goals were scored in 120 minutes.

The 39-year-old Portugal captain, who missed a penalty against Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the 105th minute and then shed tears on the pitch, faces France's Kylian Mbappe with his team in the quarter-finals on Friday (9pm) in Hamburg.

Ronaldo is still waiting for his first goal of the tournament, having shown the nerve he needed in Monday night’s penalty shootout in front of 46,576 spectators at the Frankfurt Arena. After scoring, he apologized to the fans with a gesture. Goalkeeper Diogo Costa was the match-winner, saving three shots from the Slovenians. It was a relief – especially for Ronaldo, who had to comfort his teammates after his failed attempt from 11 meters in the first half of extra time.

His tally in his sixth European Championship still stands at 14 goals. Ronaldo could have decided the game on his own. Shortly before the end of regulation time, he actually missed an Oblak shot (89th minute). But coach Roberto Martinez's choice saved them from a first-round exit, as Italy and Belgium had already experienced.

Ronaldo as a fixed point

All eyes on Ronaldo: Every time the former world footballer touches the ball, the noise level in the stands rises. That was also the case when the striker dived under a cross in the 13th minute. Could this be the Saudi professional’s last appearance in a major tournament for Al Nassr? While his teammates hovered around him and looked for gaps, Ronaldo mostly held his position as a fixed point.

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Meanwhile, the 41-year-old European Championship veteran Pepe kept things together in defence, repeatedly making strong tackles and daring to make several trips to the opposition goal. The Slovenians initially struggled to get close to the penalty area. This also applies to RB Leipzig's Benjamin Sisko, who at 21 is the youngest in the away squad. Coach Matjaz Kek called for more support for the talented striker: “We have to help him.”

For the first time since independence, the country of just two million people has reached the knockout stage of a European Championship final. A 2-0 win over Portugal in a friendly in March gave the team further encouragement before kick-off. But the Portuguese, with their clever division of space, allowed their opponents too much running.

Free kick position

The favourites continued to look for Ronaldo with crosses, who also got his head on the ball after a good half-hour. Oblak, however, had no problem. But then the global star celebrated his first free-kick in a wide position – sending a powerful shot just inches over the bar.

On the other hand, Sisko made his first real appearance shortly before the end of the first half, but his ball from 20 meters fell straight into the arms of goalkeeper Diogo Costa. Both teams entered the end of the first half with a shot from the outside of the post from the Portuguese Joao Palhinha.

Five days after the 2-0 defeat to Georgia in their final group game, Ronaldo’s team continued to dominate and watch, but they simply couldn’t find an opening. When the European Championship’s all-time top scorer took another free-kick, Oblak blocked the ball with both hands. Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper and his front men defended their penalty area with a lot of legs.

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An hour later, the veteran Cesco dribbled past Pepe on a counterattack but missed the target. The match went to penalties, where there was a happy, late ending for the Portuguese despite Ronaldo's drama. (dpa/red.)

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