Cristiano Ronaldo finally found his scoring boots and slotted in two goals against an hapless Dutch squad and ensured Portugal’s passage into the Quarterfinals while the Dutch ended their forgettable Euro campaign with a third successive defeat. Germany beat Denmark in the other game to qualify for the knockouts as the winners of Group B.
Ronaldo, widely criticized after failing to find the net in the opening two games, looked inspired and determined to knock the Dutch out of the tournament. The Dutch needed to win the game by two clear goals and hope that Germany would do them a favor to qualify for the knockouts and Bert van Marwijk’s squad made the perfect start taking the lead in the 11th minute.
Arjen Robben picked out skipper Rafael Van der Vaart at the edge of the penalty area and the Tottenham striker took one touch before slotting it home from distance with a strike that had class written all over it. Portugal however recovered quickly after falling behind and Gregory van der Wiel gifted Helder Postiga with a wonderful opportunity but the striker’s effort was deflected wide. Ronaldo, already looking threatening, had his header saved from point blank range by Martin Stekelenburg.
Portugal would equalize soon enough, just before the half hour mark. Joao Pereira picked out his skipper with a pinpoint precise pass and the star striker just delicately stayed on-side before putting the ball past the keeper and into the back of the net. Ronaldo looked a transformed man after the goal and tested the goalkeeper again with an audacious dipping strike from 40 yards out. The Real Madrid man then put a diving header just wide of the post of a Joao Moutinho corner as Portugal ended the first half as clearly the stronger squad and the Dutch now needed a remarkable turnaround to keep their hopes alive.
The second half saw more of the Portuguese domination. Postiga had the ball in the back of the net but the referee cut celebrations short as he called offside. Ronaldo had another missed opportunity when a delightful Nani chip sent him through but the Madrid star failed to get his shot away on time. The Dutch should have seized their opportunity but Wesley Sneijder mistimed his header. The desperate Marwijk sent on Afellay and Huntelaar in hopes of turning the game around. But it was no avail as the tired Dutch looked destined to crash out of the tournament.
The writing was on the wall when a perfectly weighted through ball by Nani found Ronaldo. The best player in the world sent his marker the wrong way and smashed the ball into the back of the net with effortless ease to seal a Quarterfinal berth for his country.
Van der Vaart, easily Holland’s best player on the day, struck the post with a long range curling effort and Ronaldo came inches close to getting a hat-trick as he struck the post but he was more than relieved at the full time whistle as Portugal’s qualification also meant it was curtains for the Dutch.