Netherlands mount Euros comeback against Turkey to set up England semi

BERLIN: Time has run out again for Portugal’s aging superstar Cristiano Ronaldo after his ignominious exit from Euro 2024.

France knocked out the 2016 winners 5-3 after Friday’s goalless quarter-final in Hamburg, with Ronaldo ineffective at best and hurting his own team’s aspirations at worst.

At the 2022 World Cup, when former coach Fernando Santos dropped Ronaldo to the bench as the team demolished Switzerland 6-1, Portugal had a bright future on the horizon.

But his successor, Roberto Martinez, backed the 39-year-old, who now plays for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, to the hilt and beyond.

Keeping the former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward, Portugal swept through the European qualifiers with a 100 percent result and became one of the favorites in Germany.

However, they have underperformed badly, with Ronaldo failing to find the back of the net in five games this summer. The striker has not conceded a goal in his last nine major tournament matches.

Despite boasting strong options to replace him, including Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and Paris Saint-Germain’s Goncalo Ramos, Martinez refused to stop Ronaldo against France.

Didier Deschamps replaced Les Bleus icon Kylian Mbappé as he looked to make an impact, but Ronaldo stayed on even as the game passed him by.

In the last 16 match against Slovenia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in extra-time and broke down in tears in what was a disturbing extra, but Martinez praised the striker’s emotional reactions after the game as a sign of his passion.

However, many suspect that those tears were not for Portugal but for himself as he failed to break the record of the oldest ever player to score at a European Championship.

Ronaldo has finished scoring at every major international tournament and failed to extend his €14 goalscoring record.

He faced 23 shots without success in Germany, and perhaps the most damning was a glimmer of opportunity in extra time against France.

Spirited winger Francisco Conceicao cut the ball back forward a few meters from goal, but somehow fired his team’s best chance over the bar.

It was the kind of chance that Ronaldo has dispatched a hundred times in his career.

Ronaldo’s presence strongly influences Portugal’s game.

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

Ronaldo no longer has the pace to constantly break in behind the defense, which limits the passing opportunities of the team’s playmakers.

Not only did Martinez not look strong enough to leave Ronaldo out of his plans entirely, but he couldn’t even bring himself to replace the tackle at the tournament, save for a shock 2-0 loss to Georgia.

Ronaldo started this game despite Portugal being guaranteed to win the group, while virtually everyone else was rested.

The coach said after France’s elimination that no decision had been made about Ronaldo’s future at the international level.

“We just finished the game, everything is still too raw, we are losing as a team, there is no individual decision at the moment,” Martinez told reporters.

One of the reasons why the Spanish coach does not feel strong enough to cut the rope is the ‘Cristiano cult’ that is evident among the team’s supporters.

Attending a Portugal game is like swimming in a sea of ​​maroon Ronaldo ‘7’ jerseys while wearing the talismanic face of some fans.

Even opposition fans come to watch the Ronaldo circus, although now there’s more sulking and sulking than scoring.

“(Our fans) wanted to see Ronaldo the most, so they flocked to the game,” noted Slovenian midfielder Adam Gnezda Cerin during a March friendly in which Ronaldo beat Portugal 2-0.

Although Portugal eventually lost on penalties at the Euros, Ronaldo’s inadequacies were once again exposed at this level and France finished the job.

Ronaldo has admitted this will be his last Euros, but with Portugal now turning their attention to the 2026 World Cup, their chances are sure to increase without the classy survival hitman.

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