June 27, 2012
Euro notes: Ronaldo should have stepped to the spot
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
First or fourth.
That's the slot Cristiano Ronaldo should have stepped to the spot in.
Despite getting most things right through two hours of work, Portugese manager Paulo Bento failed to properly order his penalty kick takers before falling to Spain in Wednesday's semifinal. Leaving Ronaldo, the team captain, as the fifth and final taker prevented one of the world's best players from helping his team progress to the Euro final .
Either Joao Moutinho or Bruno Alves -- Portugal's first and fourth shooters -- should have been dropped or moved down the list in order to give Ronaldo an opportunity to help his team following a goal-less 120 minutes in Donetsk
Bento's mistake aside, with Spanish 'keeper Iker Casillas well off his line on Moutinho's penalty, should Moutinho have been asked to re-take the kick? Although it's common practice for referees to grant a single step forward before the ball is struck, Spain's No. 1 was well off his line with both feet before making his opening save .
It appeared Portugal's players got Bento's order wrong, too.
Both Nani and Alves left the centre circle to attempt the third kick before the former converted.
FEW BIG MOMENTS
Onlookers had to wait until the 104th minute for either team to test a 'keeper. That chance came off the right foot of Andres Iniesta just metres away from Rui Patricio's goal. Following Jordi Alba's spirited run along the left edge of the penalty area deep into extra time, the Valencia defender's final touch was a perfectly-weighted cross for Iniesta on the doorstep. Patricio's reaction save preserved the clean sheet ... At the opposite end, Ronaldo and Co. failed to test Casillas, who wasn't asked to make a save until the match was decided from the spot. Still, if it weren't for a game-saving tackle in the 41st minute, Portugal likely would have had the chance it needed. After completing a one-two with Raul Meireles minutes before halftime, Ronaldo would have been in alone on goal had Spain's Sergio Ramos not committed an important professional foul just inside his own half ... In the 63rd, a similar thing happened at the opposite end when Joao Pereira pulled down Cesc Fabregas, who would have been clean in behind the Portuguese defence from the left side of the area ... Makes you wonder why Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque decided to sit the Fabregas in favour of Alvaro Negredo ... While we're left shaking our heads as to why Ronaldo was the fifth shooter, he had the ball on his foot at the death. Just before second-half stoppage time, the world's second-best player collected a pass on a quick counter before unleashing a shot that flew harmlessly over the bar - his last attempt at goal in the tournament.
Spain entered Wednesday's Euro semifinal having claimed 50 wins in 59 matches under del Bosque, a remarkable streak dating back to 2008 ... On the way to capturing the 2010 World Cup, del Bosque's side picked apart its opponents with series after series of five and 10-metre passes in and around the box. That didn't happen against Paulo Bento's Portugal ... The Portugese shrunk the field from start to finish, dropping at least nine men behind the centre circle while staying remarkably compact. Add to that Nani's tendency to drop in as a right back (fifth defender) throughout and, other than Iniesta's first-half attempt that flew harmlessly over the bar, Spain rarely threatened ... Instead, Portugal offered its rival the wings. It was intent on denying the Spanish the tight and bright passing sequences they've been cutting teams open with for years ... Before attaining Portugal's top job, Bento spent most of his career clogging things up as a holding midfielder throughout Portugal's Primeira Liga. The architect of Portugal's relentless protection in front of Patricio, Bento accomplished what 59 teams before him couldn't.
THIS AND THAT
Nobody is above criticism in international soccer and Spain's del Bosque will certainly receive it for sending out Negredo while leaving Fabregas and Fernando Torres on the pine. Although he had scored in half (six) of his appearances with Spain coming in, the Sevilla striker was an absolute ghost throughout his 53 minutes before del Bosque had seen enough and made a change ... The Spanish haven't conceded since Antonio Di Natale opened the scoring in Group C's first game. Following a pair of 15 minute extra-time halves at the Donbass Arena, Spain extended its shutout streak to 419 minutes, blowing away the previous Euro record of 324 minutes held by the Italians since 1980 ... Spain's Iberian rival still hasn't tasted victory over its eastern neighbour outside games played in Portugal since beginning international play in the 1920s ... While winning on penalties vindicated Casillas, it was the second time in as many months Ronaldo has gone out in a major tournament on penalties. Real Madrid, with Casillas and Ronaldo on the roster, lost to Bayern Munich during April's UEFA Champions League semifinals. Ironically, Ronaldo missed his side's first attempt.