x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Euro 2012: Portugal 2 Holland 1

Cristiano Ronaldo finally kicked into gear when Portugal needed him most as his brace sent his side through to the quarter-finals, while Holland limped out bottom of Group B.

Holland pair Arjen Robben, left, and Wesley Sneijder saw their disappointing campaign end with a third straight defeat. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Holland pair Arjen Robben, left, and Wesley Sneijder saw their disappointing campaign end with a third straight defeat. Julian Finney / Getty Images

KHARKIV, UKRAINE // Give him all the saunas, all the security guards and all the palatial suites he wants.

It may not be the catchline of the particular brand of hair care product he endorses, but on this form Cristiano Ronaldo is well worth it.

It was revealed at the weekend Portugal's players are on a double dip recession-threatening €4,000 (Dh18,568) per day budget at Euro 2012, while their star man in particular has every whim catered for.

Given the way he had played until now, you might have thought the Portuguese football association's accountants had been the ones who had brought about the global economic crisis in the first place.

However, the money lavished on Ronaldo seemed well spent after the £80 million (Dh461.6m) man's double sent Portugal through to the knockout stage in Ukraine where they will meet Group A winners Czech Republic in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Portugal do a good line in divas. When Nani missed a gilt-edged chance to settle the game in their favour late on, a member of their back-room staff booted the team's drink stash across the technical area.

A substitute followed up and booted the bottles even further. And the poor, put-upon drinks man flew into a Latin rage.

The whole Portuguese squad have been Ronaldo's water carriers to date. This was the first time in this tournament he had repaid them.

Defeat set the seal on a miserable tournament for Holland, who were much fancied at the start after they reached the World Cup final two years ago.

Thousands of their supporters have stayed in basic conditions at campsites in Kharkiv as their side have played three pool matches in this city over the past two weeks.

The spirit in that camp is likely to be eminently more cordial than that within the national team by the look of their mood last night.

On the basis that his side needed a win by two clear goals to stand any chance of progressing, Bert van Marwijk, the coach, heavily loaded his side with attacking prowess.

That meant dispensing with his son-in-law, Mark van Bommel, and bringing in Rafael van der Vaart, the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker, who got the captain's armband and his starting berth as a job lot.

However, it was not so much a lack of forward thinking that had got Holland into this position in the first place as their profligacy in front of goal.

Van der Vaart arrested that particular failing at the first available opportunity as he curled in the type of delicious goal on which he has made his name to open the scoring.

Portugal seemed immediately to inherit the habit of wastefulness, as Ronaldo, Helder Postiga and Raul Meireles missed a rash of chances between them in quick succession.

There were only so many they were going to pass up, though, as Holland's defence suddenly sprung more leaks than a coalition government.

Ronaldo was clearly in the mood to silence a few critics, and it was he who brought the Portuguese level when he shot past Maarten Stekelburg in the 28th minute.

As Holland's defence threatened to dissolve totally, Ronaldo's mood improved pro rata. At one point in the first half, the preening Real Madrid forward even cracked a smile. They had been rare in the first week and a half of this tournament.

By scoring, he became the seventh player to score in three European Championships. Many observers would be surprised to know that Postiga is one of the other names on that list.

While he prepares to fight more important battles in the quarter-finals, Holland sullenly made for the exit.

Unlike Ronaldo, the weight of a nation's expectations finally proved too much for Robin van Persie, who capped a woeful time in Kharkiv by firing a late chance wide.

pradley@thenational.ae

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