Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Whether Portugal Win or Lose, It's All about Ronaldo

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Whether Portugal Win or Lose, It's All about Ronaldo

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Wilson

[bar] HE problem for Cristiano Ronaldo is that excellence is expected as standard. When he scored twice and was generally brilliant in Portugal's 2-1 victory over Holland on Sunday, the reaction was less one of praise than of noting that he had finally started to deliver in a Portugal shirt. When he plays badly, as he did in the 3-2 win against Denmark, all the discussion is about his failings.

And so, perhaps not surprisingly, when he does well, it always seems to be about personal vindication rather than the team's progress.

Certainly, when he scored the equaliser against the Dutch there was an element of relief about his celebration, before he pursued anther personal line by referencing his son, who had celebrated his first birthday a day earlier. His second goal, though, was celebrated with his team-mates, almost as though there were a perceived need on the part of Portugal to prove that there is great togetherness in the side.

"The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most professional players I have ever come across," said Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles.

"He gives his all at every training session.

He is our leader and, on the pitch, there is no one who wants to win more than him. He scored twice in the last match; before he had drawn a blank but he had still helped us out in other ways."

It was Ronaldo's performance that enlivened Portugal against the Dutch.

It's going too far to say they're a oneman team -- how could they be with Meireles, Nani and Fabio Coentrao among their ranks -- but it is true that the Real Madrid winger lifts them from being a decent side to one that could actually win Euro 2012. And there has been a sense of something building for a while -- if they beat the Czech Republic in tonight's quarter-final in Warsaw, it would be their fourth appearance in the semi-final of a major tournament in the past 12 years.

Chelsea's success in the Champions League, overcoming Barcelona and then Bayern Munich as underdogs, has given Meireles belief that anything is possible.

"Chelsea won the Champions League when nobody considered them as favourites," he said. …

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