What a crazy ending for the Spain versus Portugal semifinal for Euro 2012. After less than stellar play by both teams, the game went to penalty kicks. Spain would eventually win on penalties 4-2, but the most surprising storyline was that Cristiano Ronaldo did not even take a penalty!
I have no idea if it was Paulo Bento’s or Ronaldo’s call, but whatever the case, it is inexcusable to have your best player not take a penalty to move on to the Euro 2012 championship match. As soon as Sergio Ramos netted his penalty to put Spain up 3-2 with only two Portuguese players left, Ronaldo should have stepped up.
Don’t get me wrong, Bruno Alves hit a heck of a penalty for Portugal. Upper ninety, way out of reach of Spanish goalie Iker Casillas, only to be denied by the cruel crossbar.
If Ronaldo was trying to be the hero, he could not have been. Even if Cesc Fábregas had missed, Ronaldo still would have had to net his (if he went fifth) just to force a sudden death penalty situation.
Instead, Portugal is now heading home, again, and anyone who saw the cameras turn immediately to Ronaldo after Fábregas’ make knew he was not happy.
Ronaldo has re-invented his image in international football this tournament. He was a threat every time he touched the ball, as noted by usually two, three, or more Spanish defenders on him immediately.
Yet, on the biggest stage of this tournament for Portugal, in it’s most crucial moment, he was not the one taking the kick. We can always criticize afterwards; it is much easier once we know the outcome.
If word comes out that it was Ronaldo’s call to wait to take the fifth penalty, what then? Will he be berated? Will his image suffer?
Whatever the case, he did himself, and his country, no favors tonight by not taking a penalty.