It took 87 minutes, three shots and a little help from a friend but, on Monday night in Budapest, Cristiano Ronaldo did what he does best – score goals and break records. Ronaldo’s goals – he scored a late brace – lifted Portugal to a deserved (if cruel on the opposition) 3-0 win over Hungary in their opening Euro 2020 group stage match. And with France and Germany – the winners of the last two World Cups – also in the group, this was a vital win.
The Portugal and Juventus forward is now the all-time top scorer in European Championships with 11 goals – two ahead of French great Michel Platini’s nine goals. Monseiur Platini, though, can still claim moral superiority because all his goals came in just one tournament – Euro ’84.
And for added spice, Ronaldo also holds the records for playing in the most Euros (5) and in the most matches (22), and could finish Euro 2020 with the all-time international scoring record too.
Ronaldo’s 10th and 11th goals of the Euros were his 105th and 106th for Portugal. Only Ali Daei of Iran has scored more goals for his country – 109.
That said, for a long time it seemed as if tonight would not be Ronaldo’s night.
For all the talent they had going forward, Portugal were frustrated, time and again, by a resilient and well-organised Hungary defence. The defending European champions did start strongly, with two excellent chances inside the first ten minutes.
Both fell to Liverpool’s Diogo Jota; the first was a scuffed shot that missed the target and earned a furious reprimand from Ronaldo, who was wide open to his left. The second was a high toepoke.
As the first half wore on though, the chances dried up. Hungary were well-drilled in defense and dangerous on the counter, with former Real Madrid youth striker Adam Szalai a handful.
The biggest chance of the first half fell to Ronaldo two minutes before half-time but he shot high, wide and not-so-handsome from six yards out.
The second half started much the same way, and the match appeared set to finish an entertaining but goalless draw, when Hungary substitute Szabolcs Schon thought he’d done the unthinkable – nick a goal at the end for a famous win.
The goal – a fine right-footed strike that slid in past the near post – was rightly ruled out for offside.
And, as the clock ran down Hungary’s players began tiring, a ruthless Portugal stepped up the pace and the gaps started appearing.
In the 84th minute left-back Raphael Guerrero’s strike ricocheted past a helpless goalkeeper into the far corner. Two minutes later Rafa Silva burst through on goal and was fouled by centre-back Willi Orban. It was a definite penalty, and it was time for Ronaldo to shine.
CR7 stepped up and slammed it home, sending Peter Gulacsi the wrong way. And five minutes after that, with just seconds left to play, he thumped home his second and Portugal’s third.
The win wasn’t as routine as Portugal would have liked but it is a win… it is three points… and it sets the stage very nicely for their remaining two games.
As for Hungary, on paper this was their best shot at getting at least a point. After this display, though, France and Germany will be on alert; the magical Magyars may not beat them, but they will, certainly, make life very, very hard.
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