Ronaldo turns missed PK tears into shootout 'joy'

A game of epic personal drama and tears for Cristiano Ronaldo ended with his Portugal team making the European Championship quarterfinals after beating Slovenia in a penalty shootout Monday.

The last-16 game went to a shootout because Ronaldo’s extra-time spot kick in the 114th minute was saved by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Regulation and extra time finished 0-0.

When the teams went to penalties, Ronaldo scored his and Portugal’s first, and teammate Diogo Costa saved all three of Slovenia’s kicks, from Josip Ilicic, Jure Balkovec and Benjamin Verbič.

“Sadness at the start is joy at the end,” Ronaldo said in an on-field interview following the final whistle. “That’s what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments.

“A direct shot to give the team the lead. I didn’t manage it. Oblak made a good save. … I have to see the penalty, I don’t know if I shot well or badly, but I haven’t missed once all year, and when I needed it most, Oblak saved it.”

Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva also scored for Portugal to seal the shootout 3-0 with two shots to spare.

“I think Portugal deserved it because we had more authority,” Ronaldo said. “Slovenia spent almost the entire game defending … It’s very difficult and the whole team is to be congratulated, especially our goalkeeper [Costa], who made three very good saves.”

Portugal will face France in the quarterfinals Friday in Hamburg, a rematch of the 2016 final that Portugal won in Paris.

“He’s an example for us,” Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said of Ronaldo in his postmatch news conference. “Those emotions [after missing the penalty] are incredible. He doesn’t need to care that much after the career he has had and everything he has achieved.

“After missing the penalty, he was the first penalty taker. I was certain he had to be first and show us the way to victory. The way he reacted is an example, and we’re very proud.”

The 39-year-old Ronaldo went into the game without a goal at Euro 2024.

The moment when he surely had to become the oldest player ever to score at a Euros finals tournament came in the first period of extra time, the 105th minute, after missing five or six of the kind of chances he has thrived on for 20 years.

Portugal had been awarded a penalty kick and Ronaldo stepped up to take what could have been the decisive goal.

Instead, Oblak, a long-time adversary from their time playing in LaLiga in Madrid, dived left to push aside the well-struck shot against a post and away to safety.

Tears welled in Ronaldo’s eyes and soon flowed during the break before the second period of extra time began. Teammates consoled him, kissed his forehead and urged him to keep going.

Ronaldo’s mother was in the stadium and TV pictures also showed her crying after his missed penalty.

Extra time also finished 0-0 and when the penalty shootout started, Slovenia’s first kick was saved by Costa.

Up stepped Ronaldo, facing a massed stand of about 10,000 Portugal fans. He placed it perfectly low beyond Oblak diving to his right.

Ronaldo looked apologetically to the fans and put his hands together as if in prayer. The fans responded with a bellowing and forgiving shout of “Siuuuu” — their soccer icon’s trademark goal scream.

The intense extra-time drama followed a frustrating first 90 minutes for Ronaldo.

After three free kicks and two mistimed headers, the Portugal star seemed sure to score with his first clear shooting chance in open play.

It came in the 89th, when he ran clear on goal with the ball passed perfectly into his stride. The left-foot shot was low and powerful, but Oblak’s block was better. Ronaldo held out his arms in exasperation yet again.

Portugal are still competing to win back the European title they also won in 2016, at the expense of an admirable Slovenia side that were effectively unbeaten after drawing all four of their games at Euro 2024.

“His emotions show respect for Slovenia,” coach Matjaz Kek said of Ronaldo, “and that is what I am content with.”

Information from ESPN’s Rob Dawson, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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