Group B: Nertherlands 1 - 2 PortugalSun, Jun 17 2012
A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal overcame a deflated Netherlands side by two goals to one in Kharkiv. Despite falling behind to Rafael van der Vaart’s opener, a brace for the world’s most expensive player secured progression to the last eight.
With both sides needing a result in order to guarantee their place in the last eight of the European Championships, most would have expected an open, flowing encounter and that’s exactly what the game produced. Various tactical changes were made within a Dutch line-up that was set up to attack rather than rely on the defensive efforts of Mark van Bommel; seeing him replaced by Rafael van der Vaart.
The inclusion of van der Vaart was justified after just ten minutes as he put Holland into the lead. Arjen Robben shaped to shoot, but instead, squared to his team mate. Van der Vaart took a touch inside and curled a fantastic effort into the far corner and out of the reach of Rui Patricio.
Just five minutes later, Portugal has a golden opportunity to restore parity after a fantastic break from Ronaldo on the left wing. After effortlessly dribbling for thirty yards, Cristiano Ronaldo turned Ron Vlaar easily on the edge of the area before seeing his effort clip the outside of the near post an run out for a goal kick.
Ronaldo spurned yet another opportunity for Portugal soon after, as his former Manchester United team mate Nani floated an accurate cross towards the back post. Ronaldo timed his jump well, but could not get the conviction on the header that he would have liked. The effort was straight at Stekelenburg, and he was able to parry away.
Despite his poor show of finishing so far in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo made amends for his earlier misses by equalising just shy of the half hour mark. Joao Pereira retained possession about twenty fives yard from goal; assessing his options. A delayed run from Ronaldo was the target for Pereira, whose pass found the La Liga top scorer perfectly just ten yards out. He slotted home much to the delight of the vocal Portuguese support.
Ronaldo had two more opportunities soon after. He fired a rocket from thirty five yards to test Stekelenburg’s wrist strength, and later on had a rather close range header at the near post that just went wide of goal. Portugal really upped the tempo and dominated until half time.
It would have been a struggle for the second half to live up to the levels of excitement produced by the opening forty-five, but nobody expected such a cautious approach from both sides in the final forty-five.
The game continued on from where it left off at the whistle; with Portugal looking the only side that would score.
After two weak efforts from the Portuguese, Helder Postiga thought he had pushed his side into the lead when he netted on the hour mark, but the assistant’s flag was aloft, to inform him of his ill-timed run.
With twenty-five minutes to go, and no real opportunities being created by his side, van Marwijk decided to go for broke. Ibrahim Affelay was introduced to try and grab a much needed goal for the Dutch, but this change would leave Holland extremely exposed to the counter attack.
Within five minutes of the switch, the Netherlands had conceded. After losing possession on the edge of the Portuguese penalty area, Holland were broken against. A fantastic run from Nani was picked out. He maintained speed and looked up to play a marvellous diagonal through ball to the feet of Ronaldo. He took a touch, composed himself and slotted it into the bottom corner, to condemn the Dutch to elimination from the tournament.
With the knowledge of their progression into the next round being almost secured, Portugal sat back and invited Dutch pressure for the remaining fifteen minutes. It was Rafael van der Vaart once more who had the best opportunity courtesy of an effort not too dissimilar to his first goal hitting the outside of the post.
Despite their best efforts, Holland could not break down Portugal, and they bowed out of this year’s European Championships while Portugal advanced as runners-up to Germany in Group B.
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Raul Meireles (Custodio Castro 72), Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Nelson Olivieira 64), Nani (Rolando Fonseca 88).
Subs not used: Eduardo Caralho, Beto, Ricardo Costa, Miguel Lopes, Ricardo Quaresma, Ruben Micael, Hugo Viana, Hugo Almeida, Silvestre Varela.
Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van Der Wiel, Ron Vlaar, Joris Mathijsen, Jetro Willems (Ibrahim Affelay 68); Nigel de Jong, Rafael van der Vaart; Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder; Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Robin van Persie.
Subs not Used: Luciano Narsingh, Tim Krul, Luuk De Jong, Wilfred Bouma, Khalid Boulahrouz, Stijn Schaars, Kevin Strootman, Michel Vorm, John Heitinga, Mark van Bommel, Dirk Kuyt.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Andrew joined Extratime for the 2010 season and covers all the on-goings down in Limerick. Having first experienced the League of Ireland in 2002, Andrew became hooked, even at such an early age. He is currently studying English and New Media at the University of Limerick. You can contact him via Twitter @Cunneen92.