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Euro 2012 talking points: day 10

Miguel Delaney assesses the respective wins for Germany and Portugal earlier this evening.

Germany maintained their 100 percent winning record against Denmark.
Germany maintained their 100 percent winning record against Denmark.

Ronaldo rises to the occasion

Not unlike debates in Ireland about Giovanni Trapattoni, it seems you can’t discuss Cristiano Ronaldo with the argument veering rapidly to the extremes. The Italian is either past it or the saviour of a poor footballing nation; Ronaldo is either the best or a bottler.

The truth, of course, is always much more complex.

Far from not being a big-game player, for example, Ronaldo just has a mixed record in red-letter games. Classic examples were the 2008 Champions League final and the 2012 semi-final second leg. In the first, he scored the opening goal but then missed a key penalty. In the second, he did much the same.

Tonight, though, Ronaldo’s European Championship took a drastically different course. After the selfish ineffectiveness of his opening two fixtures, he genuinely looked like a player on another level tonight; like someone on a mission. And that mission was accomplished.

From the start, there was a greater sharpness about his shooting, as illustrated by an effort that just clipped the wrong side of the post.

Soon, he was doing everything right, from hitting the target twice to putting Nani through for an attack that should have secured the game.

All of this, of course, must be put into the context of an atrocious Dutch defence. But, first of all, the goals still needed to be scored… Ronaldo did that. Two, the real importance of it all might be in the knock-on effect it has. This, after all, was Ronaldo’s first genuinely important goal in all of his tournaments. In 2004, he got a late, inconsequential header in a 2-1 defeat to Greece. In 2006, it was an 80th-minute penalty in a 2-0 win over Iran. In 2008, it was the second in a 3-1 group win over the Czech Republic. In 2010, it was the sixth in a 7-0 win over North Korea.

Tonight, it was the goals that put the Netherlands out and propelled Portugal into the quarter-finals.

Big game. Extreme influence.

The wrong record broken

Tonight, the Netherlands didn’t just fail to qualify from a group stage for the first time since 1980. It was the first time they’ve ever lost three games in a row.

That, of course, is all the more startling given that they reached the World Cup final only two years ago. But, even then, there were suggestions this side wasn’t quite as good as their record argued.

In this tournament, the gaps in their ‘tactically broken’ team became chasms. They were atrociously loose. And not even Wesley Sneijder’s supreme tournament could prevent it.

The saddest thing to be said is that a team that features the talents of the Inter playmaker, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben will be no real loss to the tournament.

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No surprises… some alarms

At one stage tonight, it looked like one of Denmark or the Czech Republic would definitely be in the semi-final of Euro 2012. Then, Ronaldo scored, the Danes reverted to defence and Germany eventually took control. It seemed that, after the surprises of last night, circumstances were righting themselves.

And there can be no denying that Germany were deserving winners, as they will be of the tournament as a whole should they fulfil their potential.

But they were still fortunate winners as Denmark were unluckily denied a penalty and Jogi Low’s idly lived on the edge despite the general comfort of the occasion.

There does remain a bit of a soft centre to the Germans, though, that may well see them caught out at some stage.

Good day for

  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Germany

Bad day for

  • Bert van Maarwijk
  • Those enjoying the upsets

Read: Euro 2012 as it happened: Holland v Portugal, Denmark v Germany>

Read: Trapattoni aims to go out on a high against Azzurri>

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