Coach Paulo Bento asked me to take the fifth shot, says Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is considered one of the leading penalty shooters in the world. So why did he not take a spot-kick in Portugal’s penalty shoot-out defeat against Spain in the Euro 2012 semifinal on Wednesday?
The Real Madrid striker was down as the fifth penalty-taker for his side, but by the time he was due to shoot, the game was already over as Cesc Fabregas converted Spain’s fifth, giving the La Roja an unassailable 4-2 lead and a place in Sunday’s final.
Unlike Portugal, Spain started with its strongest penalty kicker in Xabi Alonso, who saw his effort well-saved by Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
This gave the Seleccao an immediate advantage, which however Joao Moutinho gave away as Iker Casillas dived to his right to stop the Porto midfielder’s shot.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo has expressed his frustration after Portugal was defeated on penalties, but insists he was content with his own contribution.
After a goalless 120 minutes in the semi-final, Spain won the shootout 4-2 with Ronaldo, scheduled to take the fifth kick, looking on. The Real Madrid star was not at his best during the game, and missed a fine chance to win it at the end of normal time.
He told O Jogo: “It's always painful losing on penalties but penalties are always a lottery and the one who has the best luck wins. We’re going out a bit frustrated because we could have gone to the final but we were unlucky.
“I gave my best as I always have done and that's why I am happy with my own contribution. We must be proud because we played well but we didn't have the luck we needed.”
He later confirmed to the Portuguese TV network SIC: “I was going to take the next [penalty], but we missed two.
“It was just a question of me speaking with the coach. He said to me, ‘Do you want to take the fifth one?’ and I said ‘yes’. Sometimes I take the first, the second or the third. I agreed to take the fifth.
“I hope Spain win the tournament now because I have a lot of friends there and I play there and it will be a tough final for them. It felt very normal playing against Real Madrid players. On the pitch we are not friends, but outside we are.”
Asked why Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player, did not step up to take a penalty, the Portugal coach Paulo Bento said: “We had this plan and if it had been 4-4 and he would taken the last penalty we would be talking in a different way.
“We lost because Spain were more efficient in the penalties, but it's true that we did not have any luck in this tournament.”
There was also confusion over the third penalty. Bruno Alves walked forward to take it but Nani suddenly appeared behind him, took it and scored. Alves then came back for the fourth spot-kick but struck the bar, handing the initiative to Cesc Fábregas.
“There was some confusion with Bruno Alves and with Nani, then Bruno took the penalty and it was decisive,” the coach said. “Penalties could have been an advantage for us, but we lost the advantage after the first one … If I had to choose a way of losing I wouldn't choose this one but you have to lose some way, and Spain are a great team.”
It was a strategy that has once before worked for the Seleccao. In 2006, Portugal faced England in the quarterfinals of the World Cup and Portugal was leading 2-1 after it had taken four of its five spot kicks. Ronaldo, who like on Wednesday, was down as the fifth shooter for his side, made no mistake, beating Paul Robinson to take his side through to the semifinals.
Astounding conversion rate
Ronaldo’s conversion rate for penalties is astounding. This season alone he has scored 12 out of 12 for Real Madrid in La Liga matches.
His overall league tally for Real Madrid is 23 from 24 attempts, with the only miss coming in 2009, when he failed to score against Almeria.
Before joining Real, Ronaldo was also a regular penalty-taker for Manchester United, scoring 11 times from 14 attempts.
He has, however, also had some important misses, like in the final of the 2008 Champions League, when he failed to beat Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
Luckily for him, Chelsea’s John Terry also missed for the Blues and United went on to win as Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s shot.
Earlier this year, Ronaldo had another high-profile miss when he failed to convert from the spot for Real against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal.
The German side won 3-1 and went through to a home final, which it then lost to Chelsea in another penalty shoot-out.
On Wednesday, Ronaldo was not given an opportunity to take a penalty as Bento’s strategy came up short.
Keywords: Euro 2012 semifinal