KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS: Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have left his shooting boots in Madrid, hence Portugal continue to stutter and stumble along in Euro 2016.
The Real Madrid superstar, without goals or grace in their opening draw with the minnows of Iceland, failed to reach his usual goal-laden standards again in a goalless draw with Austria in the Parc des Princes.
Within 12 minutes late in the second half he missed a penalty and had a headed goal disallowed for offside.
Either would have delivered the winner and edged Portugal within sight of the second round. Instead, Hungary top Group F with four points, followed by Portugal and Iceland on two apiece and the Austrians on one. The four-way tussle resembles more of a scrap to reach the bottom of the table than the top.
At the World Cup in Brazil two years ago Portugal had the under-achieving excuse that Ronaldo was injured and took to the pitch merely as hobbling nuisance value. This time no such excuse exists. The 31-year-old rested up after Madrid’s Champions League success and should be at the top of his game.
Or, at the very least, able to shoot straight om what was his record 128th appearance for his country.
But just when Ronaldo needed that perfect aim so it deserted him. He missed two perfectly acceptable chances, by his normal standards, in the first half. Then, after the interval, matters went from bad to worse .
Super trouper keeper
Twice Ronaldo was foiled superbly by the reflexes of Robert Almer, playing the game of his life. But the keeper’s luck appeared to have finally run out Martin Hinterregger pulled Ronaldo back to concede a 73rd-minute penalty.
Ronaldo stepped up and sent Almer the wrong way only for the ball to ricochet out and away off the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
This was the first missed penalty of the finals by the one player, above all others, who would have been expected to score.
In the 85th minute Ronaldo did finally put the ball in the net with a glancing header to a right-wing free kick only for the ‘goal’ to be disallowed for offside.
Austria manager Marcel Koller was a relieved man over both penalty and header, saying: “If it had been a goal we could have returned home. We were lucky.”
Portugal manager Fernando Santos insisted on looking ahead rather than back.
He said: “We cannot wallow in our own misery. We have to think that there is a final for us to play on the 22nd. We must focus and concentrate and accentuate the positive and put it all on the pitch in this next game.
“We can’t talk about how many chances we had or whether the result was fair or unfair. It’s useless to discuss that. Now it’s all about the next match which is a final for us.”