Euro 2020: Portugal Drawn With France, Germany

A board displays the groups and Spanish football player Iker Casillas (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

 

Reigning European champions Portugal will come up against World Cup winners France and Germany in the standout group at Euro 2020 following Saturday’s draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

Neither France nor Portugal were in Pot One for the 24-team competition being held in 12 cities across Europe, making them the teams to avoid for the top seeds.

The section, Group F, will be completed by one of the winners of the play-offs to be played next March.

See the draw for the group stage of the Euro 2020 finals, to be played from June 12-July 12, made in Bucharest on Saturday:

Group A

Turkey

Italy

Wales

Switzerland

Group B

Denmark

Finland

Belgium

Russia

Group C

Netherlands

Ukraine

Austria

Winner of play-off Path D or Romania should they qualify (home games in Bucharest)

Group D

England

Croatia

Winner of play-off Path C

Czech Republic

Group E

Spain

Sweden

Poland

Winner of play-off Path B

Group F

Winner of play-off Path A or Path D (if Romania win Path A)

Portugal

France

Germany

Note: Remaining four teams to qualify through UEFA Nations League play-offs in March

Defending Champions Portugal Qualify For Euro 2020

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with team members after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group B qualification football match between Luxembourg and Portugal at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg on November 17, 2019.
JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as reigning champions Portugal secured their place at the Euro 2020 finals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg.

Bruno Fernandes struck the opening goal on 39 minutes before Ronaldo tapped in a scrappy second late on to clinch second place in Group B behind winners Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Serbia.

Portugal became the 17th nation to qualify for next year’s multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, joining the likes of world champions France, Spain, Italy, and England.

“We can’t give the match-high marks for style,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who admitted the heavy pitch made life challenging for his team.

READ ALSO: AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: Nigeria Fight Back To Beat Lesotho

“I’m very happy for my players because the qualifying campaign has been more difficult than we expected.

“We’re through to the finals of a major tournament for an 11th straight time. You’ve got to believe in these players.”

Portugal knew they would book their place at Euro 2020 with a win or by matching Serbia’s result from their game in Belgrade.

But they were made to work hard by a Luxembourg team ranked 96th in the world that notably held France to a 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Fernandes broke the deadlock before half-time, controlling Bernardo Silva’s pinpoint pass expertly before lashing in from 20 yards.

Ronaldo, who smacked in a hat-trick in Thursday’s 6-0 thrashing of Lithuania, moved to the brink of his international century four minutes from time.

Silva’s far-post cross was forced towards goal by Diogo Jota, with Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goalline.

Iranian striker Ali Daei holds the world record with 109 international goals scored between 1993 and 2006.

AFP

Euro 2020: Ukraine Qualify Despite Ronaldo’s 700th Goal

Ukraine’s players celebrate after the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Ukraine and Portugal at the NSK Olimpiyskyi stadium in Kiev on October 14, 2019. Genya SAVILOV / AFP

 

Ukraine beat Portugal 2-1 on Monday to clinch a place in the Euro 2020 finals despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s 700th career goal.

Roman Yaremchuk gave the hosts a sixth minute lead. Andriy Yarmolenko added a second after 23 minutes.

Although Ronaldo scored his landmark goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute and Taras Stepanenko was sent off, Ukraine held on to secure first place in Group B.

Ukraine join already qualified Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium.

Cristiano Ronaldo Scores 700th Career Goal

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo in action during the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Ukraine and Portugal at the NSK Olimpiyskyi stadium in Kiev on October 14, 2019. AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his 700th career goal for club or country when he converted a 72nd minute penalty for Portugal in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Ukraine on Monday.

Ukraine were leading the Group B match 2-0 when Taras Stepanenko blocked a shot with his hand,  collecting a second yellow card and being sent off before Ronaldo converted from the spot to pull a goal back.

Either team could ensure a place in next summer’s finals with a win.

Ukraine join already qualified Poland, Russia, Italy and Belgium at next summer’s finals, while second-placed Portugal, who are eight points behind Ukraine, have Serbia just a point behind them with two matches remaning after they beat Lithuania 2-1.

“There are days like these, when the ball just doesn’t want to go in,” said Portuguese midfielder Danilo. “No need to do the maths now: we just need to win the next two games to reach Euro 2020.”

Yaremchuk pounced from close range in the sixth minute. The centre forward reacted fastest after Rui Patricio dived to parry Serhiy Kryvtsov’s header from a corner, and poke the ball across the line.

Yarmolenko added the second when outpaced the Portuguese defence to finish a swift counter attack with a low, crisp first-time shot.

Portugal dominated the second half and finally achieved a breakthrough when Stepanenko blocked a shot with his arm, receiving his marching orders

The goal was his 95th for Portugal. The 34-year-old is now just 14 goals behind the all-time international record of 109 held by former Iran striker Ali Daei.

While the exact number of goals scored by some of the game’s legends is the subject of debate, Ronaldo is agreed to be the sixth player to reach 700 after Austrian Josef Bican, Brazilians Romario and Pele, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas and German Gerd Muller.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo Will Not Face Rape Charges In Nevada

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia

 

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo will not face any charges over an alleged rape in the US state of Nevada a decade ago, prosecutors said on Monday.

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office said it had declined to prosecute the Portuguese star because it “cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that a sexual assault occurred.

Kathryn Mayorga, a former model, has claimed that Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star reached a financial settlement with her following the incident but has denied allegations of sexual assault.

The district attorney’s office said it had received a report from Mayorga — who it identified only as “V” — on June 13, 2009, reporting that she had been the victim of a sexual assault.

Police were unable to conduct an investigation at the time because she declined to say who assaulted her or where it occurred, the office said in a statement, but Mayorga contacted police in August of last year to ask that the case be reopened, at which point she named Ronaldo as the alleged assailant.

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”

Ronaldo is widely considered one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game, having won the Champions League title five times — once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid.

He also led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in France.

AFP

Portugal Edge Out The Netherlands To Win First Nations League

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his team’s victory at the end of the UEFA Nations League final football match between Portugal and The Netherlands at the Dragao Stadium in Porto on June 9, 2019. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Portugal added the inaugural Nations League title to their Euro 2016 triumph as Goncalo Guedes’s strike on the hour won an underwhelming final 1-0 against the Netherlands in Porto on Sunday.

The Dutch defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt largely kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet, but Valencia winger Guedes proved the match winner as his shot had too much power for Jasper Cillessen in the Netherlands goal.

Portugal Rely On Ronaldo To Get Better Of Van Dijk

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo
Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Portugal’s meeting with the Netherlands to decide the first ever winners of the Nations League on Sunday sees the unstoppable force of Cristiano Ronaldo face the immovable object in Virgil van Dijk.

Ronaldo sat out the early stages of UEFA’s new competition to save his 34-year-old legs for his first season at Juventus but returned in time to ride to the host nation’s rescue once more in Wednesday’s semi-final against Switzerland.

The Swiss enjoyed the better of the game in Porto, but the five-time world player of the year was lethal in scoring his 53rd career hat-trick with three exquisite finishes.

“It’s the preparation of my work ethic. I still feel good despite being 34 years of age,” Ronaldo told UEFA.com.

“The most important thing is your head, to feel motivated and happy, and to follow my path as a player because I think I still have a lot to give.”

Portugal’s run to the last four without their all-time record top goalscorer showed why hopes are high the European champions will remain a force even when Ronaldo does eventually depart the international scene.

READ ALSO: Mesut Ozil Gets Married With Turkish President As Best Man

The talent of Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Ruben Neven and Bruno Fernandes among others promises much, but Ronaldo remains Portugal’s X-factor.

“We know sometimes it is impossible to have good defending against Cristiano Ronaldo,” said the Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman.

“I think the best that we can do is keeping the ball, to have good ball possession because when we have the ball he can do nothing in attack.”

– Van Dijk transformative –
However, Koeman is blessed with the man most capable of keeping Ronaldo quiet in world football at the moment in Van Dijk.

The world’s most expensive defender has more than justified his 75 million ($95 million) price tag since swapping Southampton for Liverpool 18 months ago.

His transformative effect has brought back the glory days at Anfield, capped by winning the Champions League last weekend.

And now Van Dijk is also leading his country back to where they belong as a European powerhouse after failing to even qualify for the last two major tournaments.

Koeman boasted about having the best central defensive partnership in Europe even before the tournament with Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt lining up alongside Van Dijk.

Yet, while the 19-year-old may well succeed his skipper as the world’s most expensive defender in the coming weeks, Holland’s 3-1 semi-final victory over England showed why he is not yet the finished article.

De Ligt’s error in conceding a first half penalty could have cost his side a place in the final.

Van Dijk was first to console his young teammate and that assurance helped De Ligt to atone in perfect fashion as he scored the Dutch’s equaliser before easing past an error-strewn England in extra-time.

Ronaldo may be keen for revenge against De Ligt as he also scored the winner when Ajax shocked Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals this season.

Despite the Italian champions’ elimination, Ronaldo scored his side’s two goals in that tie.

But he is yet to net when faced with the more imposing and composed figure of Van Dijk.

In their only two previous meetings, Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s Champions League final thanks to two calamitous goalkeeping errors from Loris Karius and a wonder goal from Gareth Bale in what proved to be Ronaldo’s last ever game for the Spanish giants.

The last time the two nations met, it was Van Dijk who was on target in a 3-0 friendly win for the Netherlands last March.

A five-time Ballon d’Or and Champions League winner, who has also won league titles in England, Spain and Italy, there is little left for Ronaldo to prove.

Yet, the chance to win an international tournament on home soil and avenge the pain of defeat in the Euro 2004 final as hosts will not come round again.

Fifteen years on, Portugal’s hopes still rely Ronaldo rising to the challenge of overcoming the world’s best defender.

‘Genius’ Ronaldo Hat-Trick Sends Portugal Into Nations League Final

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his third goal during the UEFA Nations League semi-final football match between Portugal and Switzerland at the Dragao stadium in Porto on June 5, 2019. PHOTO: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Portugal manager Fernando Santos hailed Cristiano Ronaldo a “football genius” after his 53rd career hat-trick sent Portugal into the final of the Nations League on home soil in Porto with a 3-1 win over Switzerland.

The hosts had to withstand a huge moment of VAR controversy as after Ronaldo’s free-kick opened the scoring, Portugal thought they had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot.

Instead, German referee Felix Brych reversed his initial decision and awarded a spot-kick at the other end for an earlier incident, which Ricardo Rodriguez converted to seemingly send the game to extra-time.

However, Ronaldo predictably took centre stage as he struck twice in the final two minutes to set up a clash with England or the Netherlands, who meet in the second semi-final on Thursday, in Sunday’s final.

“I was his coach in 2003 and I could see where hed go,” said Santos. “He’s a genius. There’s genius paintings and sculptures and he’s a football genius!

Portugal made it to the last four without their all-time record goalscorer as Ronaldo took a hiatus from international football to concentrate on his first season at Juventus.

However, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to the national team in March and was always likely to be the centre of attention, particularly on a day when it was reported a rape lawsuit against him had been dropped.

A lawyer for the American woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by Ronaldo — accusations he has strongly denied — later dismissed that report, saying the case had not been dropped.

In front of an adoring home crowd, Ronaldo put the spotlight back on his performance on the pitch as he opened the scoring with a brilliant free-kick.

 

– Debut for Felix –

The Portugal captain is however no longer his country’s only star name, with Bernardo Silva starring for Manchester City where he could soon be joined by Joao Felix.

City are reportedly set to pay Felix’s 120-million-euro ($135 million) buyout clause from Benfica, but the 19-year-old missed a glaring chance to mark his international debut with a goal just before the break as he blasted over from Ronaldo’s pass.

Switzerland had posed a threat themselves in the first half with Xherdan Shaqiri, fresh from winning the Champions League with Liverpool, particularly lively.

However, it took the help of VAR to get them back in the game just before the hour mark.

Brych had waved away appeals for a foul by Nelson Semedo on Steven Zuber before awarding Portugal a penalty as play broke down at the other end, but overturned his initial decision.

Rodriguez drilled home the resultant spot-kick much to the fury of the home supporters at the Estadio do Dragao.

The Swiss could then have gone in front when Benfica forward Haris Seferovic headed just wide.

By contrast, Portugal had one of the deadliest finishers in football history on the end of their chances.

“Congratulations to Portugal. They had street smarts, they had the cherry on top of the cake and that made the difference. Four shots, three goals,” said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.

Silva was the creator for Ronaldo to drill home his second of the night two minutes from time.

Moments later the hosts sealed their place in the final on the counter-attack as Ronaldo curled into the far corner for his 88th international goal.

AFP

Germans Injured In Madeira Bus Crash Flown Home

Injured victims of a bus crash occurred on April 17, 2019, board a German air force ‘Luftwaffe’ Airbus 310 aircraft, at the Madeira international airport, in Funchal, to be transported back to Germany on April 20, 2019.  MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

A group of 15 Germans who were injured in a deadly Madeira bus crash were flown home on Saturday aboard a medically-equipped German military plane, Germany’s air force said.

Their tourist bus crashed on the Portuguese holiday island on Wednesday, killing 29 passengers, all of them German.

One injured German had already been flown home on Friday and another, a woman too badly hurt to fly, was being kept in intensive care in Portugal.

The aircraft landed in Cologne in western Germany, the German air force said in a tweet, adding that the injured passengers were to receive “supplementary care”.

READ ALSO: Two Teenagers Arrested Over Killing Of Journalist In North Ireland

Investigators are still trying to determine why the vehicle crashed off the road before ending up mangled on a hillside near the town of Canico.

Portuguese public TV RTP reported Friday that the bus’s accelerator was thought to have been stuck and that the driver might have tried to stop the vehicle by hitting a wall.

Advancing another theory, a German holidaymaker in his 60s who escaped with a broken rib told Portuguese television: “I think the brakes were gone, I cannot imagine another reason” for the crash.

His wife said some passengers were thrown through the windows when the bus began to roll over.

More than one million tourists visit the Atlantic island group off the coast of Morocco each year, attracted by its subtropical climate and rugged volcanic terrain.

AFP

Minister Resigns In Portugal Over Nepotism Scandal

 

A junior Portuguese cabinet minister resigned on Thursday, becoming the first head to roll in a growing scandal over perceived nepotism within the Socialist ruling circle.

Deputy environment minister Carlos Martins stepped down the day after the cousin he hired as the deputy head of his cabinet, Armindo dos Santos Alves, himself resigned.

“I have always acted in good faith… but I think this affair could hurt the government,” Martins said.

Dubbed “|Familygate” in the Portuguese press, the scandal has arisen ahead of general elections in October, putting pressure on Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

READ ALSO: Macron Criticised For Missing Rwandan Genocide Commemorations

During a parliamentary debate on Thursday, Costa called on deputies to “hold a serious debate to define the criteria of links considered admissable or not, which would apply to this and future governments”.

The current Portuguese government includes a couple and a father and daughter.

But the nepotism row blew up last month after media reports uncovered several more family ties in ministerial offices.

Ronaldo Back In Portugal Squad After Nine-Month Absence

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (file photo) AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo was named in defending European champions Portugal’s squad on Friday nine months after his last international appearance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

With Euro 2020 qualifiers against Ukraine and Serbia coming up, coach Fernando Santos has recalled Ronaldo, who has 85 goals in 154 international appearances.

READ ALSO: Arsenal Draw Napoli In Europa League Quarter-Finals

He was rested for the last six Portugal games while he settled at new club Juventus.

AFP

Portugal Considers Revoking Ronaldo’s Honours After Tax Fraud Fine

Juventus’ forward and former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo leaves with his Spanish girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez after attending a court hearing for tax evasion in Madrid on January 22, 2019.  PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Portugal is considering pulling Cristiano Ronaldo’s public honours after he was fined millions by Spain for committing tax fraud while at Real Madrid, the country’s president said on Thursday.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo was awarded the Grand Cross of the Portuguese Order of Merit in 2016 when the national team won the European Championship, but on Tuesday was ordered by a Spanish court to pay 3.57 million euros ($4.1 million), part of a broader 18.8-million-euro payout.

He was handed a two-year jail sentence that was immediately reduced to a fine of 365,000 euros and another penalty of 3.2 million euros, according to the sentence.

“The law is very simple: it is up to the chancellors of the national orders to see if anything has happened that could lead to the loss of honour,” President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told reporters.

This means it would be the current chancellor of Portugal’s civil Order of Merit, one of several branches of the country’s honours system, to decide whether the 33-year-old’s conviction is enough to strip him of his honour.

“We should let those with the legal power to decide to do so and see whether the law applies or not in this case.”

However, the Juventus attacker’s honours from his home island of Madeira are safe. Ronaldo received the Madeira Medal of Merit, the autonomous region’s highest honour, in December 2014 before the inauguration of a bronze statue in his likeness at Madeira airport.

“Here in Madeira, Cristiano Ronaldo has always been seen as a good person … He is not a criminal,” said regional president Miguel Albuquerque, who dismissed Ronaldo’s conviction as an “interpretation of a tax issue”.

“He is the most prestigious Portuguese in the world,” he added.

AFP