LVIV, UKRAINE // Silvestre Varela needed just three minutes to do what the world’s costliest footballer has so far failed to do in 180 at Euro 2012, as he scored a late winning goal for Portugal last night.
The unheralded Porto forward was only introduced in the 84th minute in a desperate response to Denmark drawing level. And, while Cristiano Ronaldo continued to misfire, Varela struck decisively.
“You always have to be prepared as soon as you get on the pitch,” Varela said.
The Seleccao are supposed to be a one-man team but, since Ronaldo clearly forget to pack his scoring boots before leaving for Ukraine, his teammates have had to pick up the strain.
Having barely looked like scoring in their opening game against German, they needed to find a goalscorer from somewhere against Denmark if they were to remain in this tournament.
They plumbed the most unlikely sources and came up with three. Pepe, the centre-back, scored the first from a corner. Seldom does he get the chance to gloat that he has scored while his Real Madrid teammate has not.
“Cristiano is one of the best players in the world and in this tournament,” Pepe said. “We are all here helping him.
“He couldn’t score today but he has done many times before for Portugal. He still helped the team and showed how professional he is.”
Helder Postiga managed to briefly allay the critics when he scored his 20th goal in his 51st international to give Portugal a 2-0 lead.
Having players of the calibre of Ronaldo on one wing and Nani on the other, with Postiga through the middle, is like having an offal filling inside a rosemary loaf sandwich. Tasty until you reach the centre.
Even though he scored last night he still appeared a tortured soul. Not like another North London misfit who revelled in opposition last night.
Nicklas Bendtner has enjoyed a more successful career at Arsenal in the Premier League than Postiga ever managed at their rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. But only just.
While he is still regarded with suspicion in some quarters in English football, Bendtner continues to thrive on the international stage, scoring twice in his 50th appearance for his country.
He was the spearhead of a valiant fightback by the Danes.
“If I was proud [after the 1-0 victory] against Holland, I was even more proud today, because of the way we fought back in the second half,” said Morten Olsen, the Denmark coach.
“I think we were a little unlucky and we might have deserved a point. But this is the game.
“Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it is for them. Today it was for Portugal.”
Either of these two sides could still progress from what is – judged by the Fifa world rankings – the toughest group ever assembled at a major tournament.
“The team showed great morale and quality which is was we want to see from these players,” said Paulo Bento, the Portugal coach.