Soccer / Euro 2012 / One-man show Ronaldo Czechs Portugal into semifinals
Ronaldo's third goal of the tournament came in the 79th minute after he had struck the right post twice earlier in front of 55,590 spectators at National Stadium in Warsaw.
Portugal became the first team to book a spot in the Euro 2012 semifinals on Thursdy by beating the Czech Republic 1-0 thanks to a late goal by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo's third goal of the tournament came in the 79th minute after he had struck the right post twice earlier in front of 55,590 spectators at National Stadium in Warsaw. Portugal, the 2004 finalists, advanced to the semifinals for the fourth time following 1984, 2000 and 2004. The Portuguese will next face the winners of title holder Spain and France on Wednesday in Donetsk, Ukraine.
The Czechs were hoping to reach the semis for the third time following 1996 - when they lost in the final after beating Portugal in the quarter - and 2004.
Under a closed roof at Warsaw's National Stadium, neither team created much offense in the early going and Ronaldo and Portugal were finally dangerous in the 25th minute, running onto a through ball from Fabio Coentrao and testing Czech keeper Petr Cech, who passed the test.
The Real Madrid star was more spectacular seven minutes later with a bicycle kick from nine yards out, which went well off target. As did a Ronaldo direct free kick attempt in the 35th minute.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento was forced to make a change in the 40th minute, bringing on Hugo Almeida for his first appearance at Euro 2012 for Helder Postiga, who was stretchered off with a right leg injury.
Ronaldo couldn't have gotten any closer in the first half injury time, chesting down the ball, turning and hammering a strike off the near right post.
Almeida was in great position to give the Portuguese the lead but headed over the crossbar Raul Meireles' cross from the right side just 18 seconds after the re-start.
Ronaldo's string of bad luck continued in the 49th minute as his free kick from about 25 yards hit the outside of the far right post. It was the sixth time Portugal have hit the framework in the tournament - a new record.
Ronaldo finally found the back of the net in the 79th, flying into Moutinho's cross and delivering a header which bounced off the ground and past Cech - sending the Portgual fans, including greats Eusebio and Luis Figo into wild celebrations.