Portugal v Netherlands Kharkiv


EVEN WHEN he is nowhere to be seen, the pervading presence of Cristiano Ronaldo and the mystery over his failure to sparkle at international tournaments continues to dominate the Portuguese camp at Euro 2012.

Ronaldo again took centre stage as Portugal gave a news conference yesterday, although the player wheeled out to face the media was unassuming reserve striker Silvestre Varela. Having scored a last-gasp winner in the 3-2 win over Denmark on Wednesday, Varela might have made interesting subject matter in his own right but he was repeatedly asked why Ronaldo was unable to find his best form and why he was not the same player who blasted 46 La Liga goals for Real Madrid last season.

Varela, however, was not in the mood to give a detailed analysis on his captain. “One thing has nothing do with the other,” he said curtly, replying to the request for a comparison between Ronaldo’s club and international form.

“Football is a team game. When then team is playing well, then all the players are also doing well and Ronaldo has nothing to prove to anyone.”

The Dutch face elimination after defeats by Denmark and Germany. Only a two-goal win, or better, in Kharkiv will keep alive their hopes of a place in the quarter-finals, providing Germany reel off a third straight group win against Denmark at the same time.


Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Substitutes from:

Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Micael, Custodio, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Quaresma, Varela.

Coach: Paolo Bento

Substitutes from:

Krul, Vorm, Vlaar, Boulahrouz. Bouma, Schaars, Strootman, Van Bommel, L de Jong, Kuyt, Narsingh, Afellay.

Coach: Bert van Marwijk