LYON, France (AP) — Waving his arms in frustration and shouting frenziedly to all around him, Cristiano Ronaldo seethed as Hungarian rivals celebrated.
Ronaldo couldn’t believe his teammates in the rearguard had conceded less than five minutes after he had finally scored his first goal at this European Championship.
In the heat and humidity of Lyon, the pent-up frustration simmering inside Ronaldo after two goalless games was visible to one and all.
Not for the first time Wednesday.
The first target of the Portugal captain’s anger, during a walk in the park hours before the game, was the microphone snatched off a reporter and seemingly thrown into a lake.
His ire carried through into the frenzied 3-3 draw with Hungary.
But, whatever defensive deficiencies within the Portugal team, Ronaldo was going to drag Portugal into the round of 16. And drag his team through he did with a towering 62nd minute header to make it 3-3. The goal fest dried up and Portugal was through to the round of 16, its reward a tough game against Croatia.
“The team was in dire straits,” said Ronaldo, who also set up Nani’s goal, Portugal’s first equalizer. “Three times we were about to go home.”
There were personal milestones, too: the audacious flicked shot in the 50th minute ensured Ronaldo became the first player to score in four different European Championship tournaments, coming in a record 17th finals game.
One more goal and he ties Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in the European Championship.
“I think no one can say anything against him,” Nani said. “He is a fantastic player every time in the difficult moments. This evening he showed again. Everyone was talking about him. So I think a lot of people now, he has shut them up.”
This was Ronaldo at his most devastating in front of goal, rather than the withdrawn figure who failed to score from 22 attempts, including one missed penalty, in the draws against Iceland and Austria.
There’s no time for Portugal, or Ronaldo, to celebrate. While Portugal ground out the draw against Hungary, Iceland and Austria were embroiled in a tight tussle to also advance from Group F.
Iceland’s stoppage-time winner against Austria in Paris pushed Portugal down to third in the group and Ronaldo’s side now only has two clear days before taking on Croatia in Lens on Saturday.
Sorting out the defense, which was repeatedly exposed by Hungary, will be key.
“Before we weren’t playing convincingly up front,” Santos said through a translator. “Today was the opposite. We managed to attack; we managed to score ... but we are weaker defensively.
“So have to find the answer to the 1 million-euro question.”
One matter that surely won’t trouble Santos now is Ronaldo finding the net. With a potent combination of passion and rage on the field, Ronaldo is back in his stride.
“This I’m sure increased his confidence levels,” Santos said. “He’s a determined and confident player.”