Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Heartbreak for Ronaldo, Portugal

PARIS — Cristiano Ronaldo missed a late penalty as Portugal stumbled to a 0-0 draw with Austria, while Belgium swept to a 3-0 win over Ireland on a day of contrasts at the European Championship on Saturday.

There were mixed fortunes too for Iceland, which looked set to cause another shock by following up its draw against Portugal with a victory over Hungary — only for the tiny Scandinavian nation's team to concede a late own-goal and finish 1-1 again.

If the Icelanders can at least console themselves with having scored, nothing went right for Ronaldo in a game where he set the Portugal appearance record with his 128th cap.

Just three weeks earlier in Milan, he had scored the final penalty of a shootout against Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League final for Real Madrid.

But at the Parc des Princes, Ronaldo slammed his spot kick against the left post after sending goalkeeper Robert Almer the wrong way in the 79th minute. The 31-year-old clasped his hands and looked up to the skies.

Minutes later, Ronaldo did find the net with a glancing header, only to be ruled for offside.

Coach Fernando Santos was stoic about another draw that left Portugal with the threat of an embarrassing exit at the group stage. "We can't wallow in our own misery," Santos said. "There is a final to play on the 22nd — our first final of these Euros."

It summed up another substandard game in France for Ronaldo, who is still waiting to score in a record fourth European Championship. Austrian fans taunted Ronaldo early in the game when they chanted "Messi, Messi, Messi," the Argentinian star who is most often the other name in the discussion, along with Ronaldo, as to who is the best player in the world.

"We have to take our chances," man of the match Joao Moutinho of Portugal said, without singling out Ronaldo for blame.

And don't mention set pieces to Ronaldo.

He has now failed to score from 36 free kicks at major tournaments, stretching back to Euro 2004. The first in Paris hit the Austrian defensive wall and the second flew over the crossbar.

There was a brief security scare after the final whistle when a fan rushed onto the field to approach Ronaldo. A steward intervened, but Ronaldo allowed the fan to pose for a selfie.

Portugal's next opponent, Hungary, tops Group F with four points, followed by Iceland and Portugal with two points each. Austria has one point.

Two draws from its first appearance at a major tournament is no mean achievement for Iceland. But Birkir Saevarsson's own goal in the 88th minute, as he intercepted a dangerous low ball across the face of the goal, was still a heartbreaker.

Teammate Gylfi Sigurdsson converted from the penalty spot in the 40th minute. The match was the latest to have crowd trouble and lit flares — leading to a probable fine by UEFA — involving Hungarian fans.

In Bordeaux, Romelu Lukaku had two second-half goals as Belgium's much-vaunted attack sprang to life in an easy win.

COPA AMERICA: Lionel Messi scored and added two assists in his first start in the tournament this year to lead Argentina over Venezuela 4-1 at Foxborough, Mass., and into a semifinal against the United States on Tuesday in Houston.

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