No goals, but the victory he craved for CR7 as Portugal overcome Czechia test

Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal vs Czechia
Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal vs Czechia (PC: Cristiano Ronaldo/X)

RevSportz Comment

It is the debate that continues to divide Portuguese football fandom down the middle. Does Cristiano Ronaldo still merit a place in the starting XI for his country, or is it once again time to take the sort of unpopular decisions Fernando Santos did during the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Having been benched for the knockout games in Qatar, where Portugal made a quarterfinal exit, many thought Ronaldo’s international career was over.

But once Roberto Martinez took over as coach, one of the first things he did was fly to Riyadh and meet Ronaldo. The upshot of that has been a further 12 goals in 10 appearances for Portugal across 2023 and 2024. On Tuesday night, at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Ronaldo didn’t get on the scoresheet, and you could view his numbers however you wanted to.

The hardcore fan base will point to 100 per cent pass accuracy and five shots, while the cynics will raise eyebrows at just 32 touches, in a game where Portugal completely dominated possession and had 707 passes. The key Ronaldo moment came in the 87th minute when he met a cross with one of his trademark headers. The ball thudded against the post, but Diogo Jota, on as substitute, was alert enough to put away the rebound. Portugal’s celebrations, however, were cut short by VAR swiftly deciding that Ronaldo had strayed marginally offside.

For the Latest Sports News: Click Here

Cristiano Ronaldo and Francisco Conceicao
Cristiano Ronaldo and Francisco Conceicao (PC: Cristiano Ronaldo/X)

A game that had started with CR7 unable to get proper contact on a header in the eighth minute thus ended on a frustrating personal note, though he was one of those celebrating most fervently when Francisco Conceicao tucked away Pedro Neto’s low cross from the left. It was telling how much more dangerous Portugal looked once Jota came on. Few move as cleverly across the lines or make the runs that drag defenders out of position.

Neto showed what his pace and direct running could offer, while Conceicao – whose father, Sergio, scored a Euro hat-trick against Germany back in 2000 – is another option. Goncalo Ramos, scorer of a World Cup hat-trick in Qatar, didn’t even make it off the bench.

Victory over a solid Czechia side, whose efforts were undoubted by two mistakes, eases the pressure on both Portugal and their talisman. Even a point against Turkey in Dortmund on Saturday should be enough to guarantee progress to the round of 16. More importantly, Ronaldo knows that in Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Vitinha and Rafael Leao, he has teammates who will both provide the passes and create the space for him to flourish. After a 50-goal season for Al-Nassr, Ronaldo – who had to go off injured when Portugal won the Euro 2016 final against France – may yet enjoy more moments in the sun in his country’s shirt.

Also Read: Fall of Pakistan, Sri Lanka worrying signs for cricket