SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Portugal beat the Netherlands 2-1 to secure second spot in Group B and a quarter-final against the Czech Republic.
Paulo Bento's side were perhaps considered third among equals in this so-called 'group of death', but it is the Dutch who finish buried at the bottom of the pile without a point to their name. Suitably dressed in black, it was ultimately a funereal occasion for Bert van Marwijk's side, who had hope of an unlikely resurrection when Rafael van der Vaart put them in front. Cristiano Ronaldo then came to the fore, however, scoring a goal in either half and hitting the post twice in a majestic performance.
However, even Paulo Bento's pre-match warning that "Dutch teams like to have the ball, to play and to control the game" could scarcely have prepared his players for the Oranje's early slickness. Van der Vaart, so consummate in possession, played no small part, but it was his splendid 11th-minute finish which was the most striking difference from what had gone before.
When the Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder curled in from the edge of the penalty area, it looked as though he might have a chance of celebrating his 100th cap in the quarter-finals. Van Marwijk had everything he could have wanted; an attack which had finally clicked, dominion of the ball and an early goal. Then, though, came the Ronaldo show.
Stationed on the left, the Real Madrid CF forward's first notable involvement was a surging run and shot against the post; his second a ferocious header straight at Maarten Stekelenburg. It was third time lucky when he raced on to João Pereira's cute through ball, steadied himself and finished with aplomb.
Hélder Postiga could have drawn Portugal level even before that when inadvertently put clean through by Gregory van der Wiel, but suddenly it seemed unlikely to matter. Bento's side were rampant, with Ronaldo and Nani both going close before half-time.
The Dutch had chances of their own through the unlikely Ron Vlaar and Nigel de Jong soon after the interval, but there was always a certain air of inevitability about Portugal's threat; Ronaldo was a simply unstoppable force. Twice he showed searing pace down his flank, composure and awareness to pick out first Fábio Coentrão, and then Nani, but Stekelenburg was a man inspired.
Ronaldo, though, was a man possessed and on 74 minutes took it upon himself to go it alone. He was the catalyst for yet another another thrilling counterattack, but this time surrendered possession in his own half and made a beeline for the Dutch penalty area. In the blink of an eye he had the ball back thanks to Nani's precise pass and duly made no mistake, checking back on to his right foot before slotting in.
Though Van der Vaart struck the woodwork and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie both went close late on, the final nail had already been firmly inserted in the Dutch coffin. Ronaldo attempted to add another for good measure in the final minute but was denied by the frame of Stekelenburg's goal once more. —www.shafaqna.com