Ronaldo thrilled with team's show

Man of the match Cristiano Ronaldo admits it was tough to break the Czech defence but he's thrilled to win 3-1.

updated: June 15, 2008 18:00 IST
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Portugal's play-maker Cristiano Ronaldo hit a second-half goal to all but book his side's Euro 2008 quarter-final berth with a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic here on Wednesday.

As Manchester United struggle to keep him at Old Trafford and Real Madrid attempt to lure him to Spain, the 23-year-old play-maker showed why the European giants are battling for his services with an impressive performance.

After Barcelona's Deco had given Portugal an eighth-minute lead, the Czechs responded with a brilliant header from midfielder Libor Sionko on 17 minutes, before Ronaldo sealed the game with a superb shot in the 63rd minute.

And he then turned provider for Portuguese substitute Ricardo Quaresmo to score a third goal in extra-time.

"I am really pleased with the performance," said man-of-the-match Ronaldo.

"I feel very good at the moment, we have reached our goal of six points from six.

"I am very happy to have helped the team and get the win, it was hard to break the Czech defence in the first half.

"Everyone worked hard and we took our chances with the third goal."

After both sides had got off to winning starts last Saturday in their Euro 2008 Group A campaigns, the result leaves the Portuguese on six points and verging on the quarter-finals.

While the Czechs now need to beat Turkey here on Saturday in their last group game to be sure to reach the last eight.

Czech coach Karel Bruckner had left towering both forward Jan Koller and midfielder David Jarolim out of the starting line-up, prefering former Liverpool marksman Milan Baros as the lone striker.

And Bruckner singled out Ronaldo for special praise in an impressive team performance.

"I would like to congratulate our opponents, they played very well," he said.

"Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world, he is a very dangerous weapon, but the Portugal team is not just about Ronaldo.

"They have an excellent passing game, but, yes, Ronaldo might be the best team of Euro 2008."

His opposite number Luiz Felipe Scolari said he was delighted to have reached the last eight.

"I am very pleased with this victory this means where we have got what we wanted after only our second match, it's a historic occasion for Portugal," said Scolari

"With six points we are now in the quarter-finals, we might not be the group winners in the end, we will have to wait and see.

"We still want to win the group, this team is very capable and very qualified.

"It is a good omen for the team which is proving how good they are."

Portugal had a dream start when Ronaldo darted into the area and played a cute one-two with Benfica striker Nuno Gomes in the games opening moments.

The Real Madrid target drew Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech before centre-forward Deco flicked the ball into the empty net on eight minutes.

The Czechs hit back when defender Jaroslav Plasil swung in a cross and Sionko powered his header past Portugal 'keeper Ricardo on 16 minutes.

Both Czech defender Jan Polak and Portugals's Chelsea-bound Jose Bosingwa went into the referee's book for bad challenges as it stayed 1-1 at half-time.

After a slow start to the second half, Portugal started to exert some authority.

The threatened break through came in the 63rd minute when Deco laid the ball across the penalty area for Ronaldo to drill his shot under Cech.

And it was all over in the 91st minute as Ronaldo saw off the Czech threat as he drew Cech and slipped a pass for Quaresma to hammer the ball into an empty net.

Portugal will face co-hosts Switzerland in Basel on Sunday in their final group stage game.