Cristiano Ronaldo answered his critics with the double that sent Portugal into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Sunday but the line coming from the dressing room and himself was it was thanks to team spirit that they had prevailed.
Ronaldo’s double - his first goals of the tournament - saw the 2004 finalists beat the Robin van Persie-led Dutch 2-1 and send them crashing out of the tournament two years after they reached the World Cup final.
The Netherlands’ players hinted that their Euro 2012 campaign had been undermined by changing-room disunity after their participation in the tournament ended with a 2-1 loss to Portugal. “We lost three times. It’s a difficult thing to accept,” said Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben.
“We have to dare to look at ourselves in the mirror: we all failed. It’s hard to find explanations. Sometimes things are impossible to explain.
“In the match (against Portugal), we started the match well but we quickly forgot to keep developing our play.”
The Portuguese will play Group ‘A’ winners Czech Republic - who beat Portugal on their way to the Euro 1996 final - in Thursday’s quarter-final.
Both Ronaldo and his colleagues, who boycotted speaking to the foreign press angered at what they see as unwarranted criticism of their captain and the squad, said it was their unity which had given them the strength to prevail since losing 1-0 to Germany in the opening game.
In that they set an example to the Dutch, who loaded with more individual talent did not help their cause by being split down the middle.
Coach Paulo Bento had given the players their lead in refusing to talk about his captain Ronaldo’s performance preferring to reflect on how proud he was of the team effort.
“What is important, is not the player, but the team,” said Bento, who received an early birthday present as he turns 43 tomorrow. “I am very proud of what this team has done, to have achieved our goal is wonderful.”
Ronaldo, who dedicated his two goals to his son Cristiano who was celebrating his second birthday, had reacted angrily after the 3-2 win over Denmark last Wednesday when Danish fans had chanted the name of his nemesis in the Spanish league, Lionel Messi.
However, having answered his detractors with his two-goal performance - the first time he has ever claimed a double at a major tournament - he too did not want to talk about himself.
Meanwhile, the Dutch team has become Euro 2012’s joke and could not count itself among the world’s top footballing nations any more, the Dutch press said on Monday, after an unexpected early exit against Portugal.
“The joke of the Euro 2012,” said daily tabloid The Telegraaf adding that the much vaunted “miracle of Kharkiv” never happened.
“Taken off” the Telegraaf’s simple headline said in bold letters on Monday, adding the “Orange have failed miserably” and asking the question “Bert, what now?” in reference to the Dutch team’s coach Bert van Marwijk.
“Three matches, zero points. Never before has the Netherlands done this bad,” said daily paper NRC next adding “seldom has a team, that was still number one on the ranking list last year, broken its reputation as quickly and thoroughly as the Orange did in the last months.”
“A symbolic duel” said the left-leaning Volkskrant saying that the team’s exit has left a “black mood.”
“For the first time in history the Dutch team is coming home with three losses in a group,” the paper added.
“The players’ egos were too big,” said Christian daily Trouw, adding it was “difficult to imagine how (coach) Van Marwijk could continue.”
“Not for the first time the difference in dynamism, athletic ability and content of Dutch footballers as opposed to better foreign players showed,” the paper said.
“The third loss of the Orange has caused the most pain,” the daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad said, adding “a stone-hard evaluation should follow with the knife on the table.” (AFP)