The latest myth doing the rounds is that Cristiano Ronaldo backed down from the big occasion. Some say he opted out of the penalty shootout that marked the end of Portugal’s run at 2012 UEFA European Championship. They are dead wrong.
Portugal played Spain, the reigning king of international soccer, to a scoreless stalemate over 120 minutes. It lost the penalty-kick shootout 4-2 and its captain, Ronaldo, never had a chance to shoot.
Portugal manager Paulo Bento designated him as the taker of the fifth kick. Joao Moutinho (who went first) and Bruno Alves (fourth) missed their shots, while four of the first five Spanish takers made theirs. The shootout ended when Spain’s fifth shooter, Cesc Fabregas, converted his spot-kick. At that point, Portugal was down by two goals with only one shooter remaining and the shootout was over.
There is an art and science to setting the order of penalty-kick takers. It’s important for a coach to have full confidence that his first shooter will succeed and keep the pressure on the other team. It is debatable exactly when to use the others.
Bento took a gamble by slating Ronaldo to go fifth, and it backfired. On paper, the player who scored 60 goals for Real Madrid in the 2011-12 season is surely one of Portugal’s top three shooters. It’s likely that the Portugal boss wanted Ronaldo standing at the spot when it mattered most, which makes sense. While there was no way to anticipate that Ronaldo wouldn’t get a chance to shoot, there was always a possibility it could happen.
It is also no given that Ronaldo would have scored. In May, he failed to score for Real Madrid when it lost to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semifinal. He was his team’s first shooter, but Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer saved his shot.
There is no way to prove what would have happened if Ronaldo took a penalty kick on Wednesday. But it’s pretty safe to say that the superstar, who has dwelled in the playpen of pressure-packed situations for the last 10 years, did not back down.
Review all the action from Wednesday’s game in our Euro 2012 Live Blog.