European Championship Island | Hungary – Portugal
Portugal will play Croatia in the last 16 at Euro 2016 after Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a six-goal thriller against Hungary in Lyon. A Zoltan Gera half-volley put Hungary in front but Ronaldo set up Nani to fire in an equaliser before the break. Two deflected Balazs Dzsudzsak strikes twice restored Hungary’s lead early in the second half, but a Ronaldo flick and header levelled on each occasion.
Hungary progress as Group F winners, with Portugal through in third place. Portugal had been on course to play England in the last 16 as they occupied second place in the group at the final whistle in Lyon, but it was Iceland who claimed the runner-up spot with a dramatic injury-time winner against Austria in Paris. Portugal, who would have crashed out had they lost to Hungary, have now reached the knockout stage in all seven of their European Championship appearances.
Hungary, who were denied a winner when Adam Szalai’s shot hit the post, will now play Belgium, who finished second in Group E. Ronaldo appeared to be feeling the strain of not having scored at the tournament when, during a team stroll ahead of the Hungary match, he grabbed the microphone of a reporter and threw it into a river.
The 31-year-old came into the match with no goals from 20 attempts in the first two matches – including a missed penalty against Austria – and cut a forlorn and frustrated figure after Hungary took the lead through Gera’s superb strike. But the Real Madrid star set up Portugal’s equaliser when he played a piercing ball for Nani to drive in a low shot which beat Gabor Kiraly at his near post.
And when Portugal twice fell behind to Dzsudzsak after the break, Ronaldo responded by rediscovering his scoring prowess just when it was needed. His first goal – a deft flick from Joao Mario’s cross – made him the first player to score in four different European Championship finals tournaments. “A crazy game, we were out of the European Championship three times, and we were always chasing the game,” said Ronaldo.
“It’s not every team that manages to beat Spain, so we respect them [Croatia]. But we know our strength, we know our worth, and we’ll look them in the eyes.”
Surprise package Hungary Unfancied Hungary have emerged as one of the feel-good stories of the Euros and have advanced from the group stage of a major tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup. They conceded 63.2% of possession to Portugal but they scored three goals and caused Portugal’s defence plenty of problems, even though manager Bernd Storck did not play four players on yellow cards.
They went ahead when 37-year-old former West Brom and Fulham midfielder Gera chested down a half-cleared corner before drilling home from 25 yards, while a free-kick and left-footed strike from Dzsudzsak went in off Andre Gomes and Nani respectively. Akos Elek and Gergo Lovrencsics also went close, while a shot from Szalai effort struck the post in a pulsating game. Man of the match – Cristiano Ronaldo