Euro 2020: Ronaldo Makes History as Portugal and France Both Progress

Portugal and France
Spread the love

Death, taxes and Cristiano Ronaldo breaking records. On an evening of twists and turns at the culmination of Euro 2020’s group stages, the Portugal captain’s 20th and 21st goals at major tournaments – the highest of any European player ever – were enough to grant the holders safe passage to the Round of 16. Their opponents, the current world champions, finish as group winners, thanks to a brace from their once-estranged striker Karim Benzema. Despite finishing third, both Portugal and France have progressed to the knockout stages of the tournament.

Portugal and France Play Out Entertaining Draw

Thrilling Game in Budapest

It was a night that dutifully delivered on drama. If the rather exhausted analogy of heavyweight boxers going toe to toe had been used in the build-up, few would have predicted just how apt the metaphor would prove to be. After an unsurprisingly cagey first 25 minutes, a ball into the box saw goalkeeper Hugo Lloris – in a very literal sense – lay the first glove on Portugal, landing the sort of right-arm jab on Danilo Pereira that Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and the late Muhammad Ali would all have been proud of.

There has been much talk of penalties at this tournament. Some have been good. Some have been bad. Some – Gareth Bale’s against Turkey – are still somewhere in the Earth’s atmosphere, but nearly all have been correct. And very few, on this occasion, would question referee Antonio Mateu’s immediate decision to point to the spot: a gift that Ronaldo duly received, crashing home from 12 yards to put his country top of this year’s group of death. For all of 15 minutes.

Records, Penalties and a Rejuvenated Paul Pogba

But if the game’s first penalty was a blatant one, its second, by comparison, seemed rather soft. On the stroke of half-time, Paul Pogba, bringing a Rolls-Royce-like purr to Les Blues’ engine room, clipped a searching ball the way of Kylian Mbappe who, after realising he was getting nowhere near it, just seemed to collapse in a heap at the feet of Nelson Semedo. Still, it was enough to convince Mateu that there had been some illicit activity on the part of the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender and within seconds had his index finger thrust firmly towards the penalty spot once more.

Up stepped Benzema, a player exiled for six years from the French national team, to confidently dispatch the penalty and to score what was, remarkably, his first goal at a European Championship finals.

Not long after the break, he had his second. Pogba was again the architect, nonchalantly threading a sublime pass to meet the run of the Real Madrid striker who sent the ball beyond Rui Patricio and into the far corner of the net.

But if the morning front pages threatened to run with the headline ‘Benzema is Back’, Ronaldo made sure they return swiftly to the drawing board. After Joules Kounde carelessly handled in the box, the Juventus man’s second penalty of the game – his third of these championships – brought him level with Iran’s Ali Daei and ensured he would get at least one more crack at becoming the greatest international goalscorer of all time this summer.

In the end, however, for all its drama, this game proved to be more thrilling in theory than it did in practice. Ultimately, it will be marked down as an intriguing match-up made memorable by individual accolades rather than any captivating tussle of footballing ideologies. If nothing else, it will stand as a rather compelling case in point for why the issue of third-placed finishes continues to be so hotly debated.

Portugal and France Progress but Germany Finish Second

As news filtered through to the Puskás Arena that Germany had salvaged a point against the spirited Hungarians, the game that pitted the World champions against the European champions suddenly became something of a non-contest: the final few anti-climactic minutes playing out with both sides safe in the knowledge they would both be progressing.

And yet, lack of jeopardy notwithstanding, Group F’s final standings make for some enticing knockout games in the coming days. France meet neighbours Switzerland while Germany head to Wembley for a showdown with England. As for the record-breaking Ronaldo and his A Seleção, a mouth-watering Round of 16 tie against Belgium awaits.

Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images