PORTO: Cristiano Ronaldo’s 53rd career hat-trick fired Portugal into the Nations League final – but not before VAR was at the centre of controversy.
Ronaldo had given the hosts an early lead against Switzerland with a stunning free-kick as he ended his mini international drought of four games with his 86th Portugal goal.
However, 11 minutes after the interval Switzerland were level in controversial circumstances from the penalty spot.
A long ball over the top for Steven Zuber sees the Swiss midfielder go down after an arm from Nelson Semedo. No penalty was given by referee Felix Brych, but VAR were looking at it.
As play continued, Bernardo Silva was clipped by Fabian Schar and a clear penalty was given. However the officials had to look at the Swiss penalty first and after a long delay Brych then decided to give the visitors a spot kick, which Ricardo Rodriguez duly scored.
with extra-time looming, Ronaldo took centre stage with two late goals to send the home crowd wild and give them real hope of landing a second major trophy in three years having also won the 2016 European Championship.
His second came when Silva cut the ball back for the Juventus man to drive past Yann Sommer before completing the treble with another fine low finish.
Portugal will play England or Holland, who meet on Thursday night, in the final in Porto on Sunday night.
England’s players will share in the £9m prize money if they win the Nations Cup.
The Football Association is still in discussion with a players leadership group over a new commercial deal which takes into account the promotional work they undertake for the national game. In the meantime the players have accepted a ‘goodwill’ bonus based on their Nations League progress.
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford is confident that England can win a first senior trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
He said: “There are all the signs we are heading in the right direction. Before the World Cup, we were winning games and playing good football but when it came to games against the big teams – the elite nations we want to be amongst – we fell short a couple of times.
“But in this last year we have played Spain and Croatia and managed to get over the line. It shows we are improving. The World Cup was the start of a journey, rather than the end of an adventure. Since then we have kicked on because, if we want to get to our aim of being the No1 team in the world, we have to beat the best teams.”
“Holland will be tough, but we are determined to do well. Not long ago, back at the Euro in 2016, I don’t think our fans believed we could win something. I think that is different now.
“We are approaching this Nations League as a major tournament, 100 per cent. We want our names to be first in the history books. Who knows? In the future, it could grow into a big, big tournament.”