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Portugal beat Slovenia on penalties

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Frankfurt, July 2: No one does high drama in international soccer to such an operatic extent as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal is heading to a blockbuster quarterfinal with France at the European Championship after its star captain generated compelling viewing on center stage of the victory over Slovenia on Monday.Winning a penalty shootout 3-0 after a 0-0 game against the 57th-ranked team in world soccer might not sound much.
But there were tears, lots of them, from Ronaldo; an apology in prayer-form to his fans, who responded with adulation; extravagant arm gestures of anger, frustration and exasperation; chances wasted and denied to make more tournament history; a renewed duel with an old rival goalkeeper; and ultimately redemption and victory.Ronaldo’s mother was in the stadium and TV pictures showed her crying, too, after he missed his penalty.
“Sometimes it’s hard and difficult to score penalties,” Ronaldo told Portuguese broadcaster RTP after the match, getting emotional again. “I’ve scored more than 200 penalties in my career. Sometimes it’s a mess.” Still, the last act of Monday’s show gave Portugal what it needed.“We showed the enthusiasm that we still have to play, to have fun, to give joy to the fans and that’s it, this is our life,” he said after it was all over, close to midnight in Frankfurt.The 39-year-old Ronaldo went into the game without a goal at Euro 2024.The moment when he surely had to become the oldest player ever to score at a Euros finals tournament came in the first period of extra time, the 105th minute, after missing five or six of the kind of chances he has thrived on now for 20 years at this level.Portugal had been awarded a penalty kick and Ronaldo stepped up to take what could have been the decisive goal.
Instead, Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak, a long-time adversary from their time playing Spanish league soccer in Madrid, dived left to push aside the well-struck shot against a post and away to safety.Tears welled in Ronaldo’s eyes and soon flowed during the break before the second period of extra time began. Teammates consoled him, kissed his forehead and urged him to keep going.
Extra time also finished 0-0 and when the penalty shootout started, Slovenia’s first kick was saved by Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa.Up stepped Ronaldo, facing a massed stand of about 10,000 Portugal fans. He placed it perfectly low beyond Oblak diving to his right.Ronaldo looked apologetically to the fans and put his hands together as if in prayer. The fans responded with a bellowing and forgiving shout of “Siuuuu” – their soccer icon’s trademark goal scream.“I was certain that he had to be the first penalty taker and show us the way to victory,” Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said. “Life gives you difficult moments and the way he reacted makes us very proud.” Costa answered the rest of those fans’ prayers with as good a penalty shootout as any goalkeeper could have. (AP)

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