Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals are adding up fast, and they are taking Portugal deeper into yet another tournament.
Ronaldo scored two penalties Wednesday to help the defending champions secure a 2-2 draw with France and give the team a spot in the round of 16 at the European Championship. They also increased his total with the national team to 109 goals, tied for the all-time men’s record with former Iran striker Ali Daei.
The Portugal great’s Euro 2020-leading fourth and fifth goals also extended his overall tournament record to 14.
Karim Benzema scored both of France’s goals, his first ever at the tournament after failing to find the target at Euro 2008 and 2012. They were also his first goals for the national team since October 2015. Soon after that, he lost his place in the team because of his role in a sextape scandal.
Of course I was waiting for these goals, Benzema said.
There has been a lot of pressure on me, but I’ve never given up.
The Portuguese ended up in third place in the group, one spot behind Germany. World Cup champion France, which had already qualified following a 1-1 draw with Hungary, finished first. The French will face Switzerland in the next round while Portugal will take on Belgium.
This was a really tough group, France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Hungary proved that.
Ronaldo scored the opening goal in the 31st minute after France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris misread a free kick and punched Danilo’s face. Lloris was shown a yellow card by Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who then immediately signaled for medical assistance and awarded a penalty.
He then equalized from the spot in the 60th, after Benzema put the French ahead 2-1, when his cross from the left made contact with the hand of Jules Kounde.
It was Kounde’s second international game and his first start, chosen by Deschamps specifically to stop Ronaldo.
Benzema first scored a penalty in first-half injury time after Nelson Semedo cut across Mbappe as he was running to meet a pass from Paul Pogba. The decision stood following a quick video review.
Benzema had missed his previous penalty for Les Bleus in his international comeback in a friendly against against Wales earlier this month.
Ronaldo went to shake Benzema’s hand and even put his arm around him as they walked off smiling at halftime. The former Real Madrid teammates then swapped jerseys as they walked down the tunnel.
It was a great pleasure to see him again. We achieved so much together when we played for Real Madrid, scored so many goals together, Benzema said.
We just wished each other good luck for the rest of the tournament.
Benzema’s second goal came in the 47th after a run down the right to meet Pogba’s pass from midfield. He got in behind the defense and slotted the ball past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio and in off the left post.
Pogba almost scored a winner for France midway through the second half, but Patricio made a superb one-handed save to tip the curling shot off the crossbar and then saved Antoine Griezmann’s follow up shot.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo’s historic run began 17 years ago when he scored his first goal for Portugal in a 2-1 loss to Greece during the group stage at Euro 2004. ( PTI )