Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

D-day for Ronaldo's Portugal in Euro 2012's 'Group of Death'

By Pedro Pinto and Gary Morley, CNN
June 16, 2012 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Star player Cristiano Ronaldo is under pressure to lead Portugal into the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, with the Real Madrid forward having struggled to make the impact that was expected of him. Star player Cristiano Ronaldo is under pressure to lead Portugal into the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, with the Real Madrid forward having struggled to make the impact that was expected of him.
HIDE CAPTION
Ronaldo's remit
Portugal's progress
D-day for Dutch
'Oranje' despair
German joy
Denmark's destiny?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Final games in Euro 2012's "Group of Death" to be played in Ukraine on Sunday
  • Bottom team Netherlands face Portugal, needing to win by two goals to go through
  • Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will reach quarterfinals with win, or maybe even a draw
  • Leaders Germany need just a point against Denmark, who can also progress to last eight

(CNN) -- Cristiano Ronaldo has the weight of a nation on his shoulders at Euro 2012, but the world's most expensive footballer is struggling to make an impact for Portugal.

Mocked by opposing fans after uncharacteristic misses against Denmark, the man who seemingly scores at will for Real Madrid is under extreme pressure ahead of Sunday's final Group B clash with the Netherlands.

The Dutch need to win by two goals to have any chance of reaching the quarterfinals, while 2004 runners-up Portugal could go through with a draw if Denmark cannot beat leaders Germany.

Ronaldo scored 46 goals in 38 league games as Real wrested the Spanish title off Barcelona last season, but Denmark fans chanted the name of Lionel Messi -- his rival for the title of world's best player -- in Portugal's last-gasp 3-2 victory on Wednesday.

However, former Portugal goalkeeper Vitor Baia told CNN that Ronaldo does not deserve the criticism he has received for his performances so far.

Vitor Baia defends Ronaldo
Can Ronaldo fire Portugal to Euro glory?
Ronaldo: Winning title career high point
Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere. Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere.
Euro 2012: The best photos
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Euro 2012: The best photos Euro 2012: The best photos

"Cristiano is a fantastic player and is our captain and is doing very well," said Baia, who won 80 international caps and played at two European Championships and the 2002 World Cup.

"He's working, he's helping the team. Okay we are always expecting Ronaldo can win the game alone, but sometimes it is not possible.

"Now he's playing for the team, that is very important. When he cannot make the difference, he helps the team. That's what a captain has to do in this situation."

Portugal's defensive approach under coach Paulo Bento has mystified football pundits and fans alike, especially given the glimpses of the team's undoubted attacking skills in the final 20 minutes of the 1-0 defeat by Germany.

Baia expects similar tactics in the match in Kharkiv.

"We will play on the counterattack because it's the way we played in the other two matches. It will be the same because Holland has to win this game," he said.

"We did not start so well against Germany with a defensive strategy -- we have so much quality in our players to play in that way. But in the second game, we played better -- not the way we like it.

"We played better until 2-2 and then we suffered a little bit, but at the end we scored a third goal and now we are in a fantastic position to go to the next round because this is a very tough group, it's the most difficult group in this European Cup."

It has been called the "Group of Death" -- and the Netherlands are fighting for their lives after two successive defeats.

The 2010 World Cup finalists suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Denmark, and then were dominated in the first half by Germany before losing 2-1 as star names such as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wes Sneijder failed to combine their undoubted talents.

Euro 2012 soccer live blog on CNN.com
Could this be Holland's year?
Eye-witness describes Warsaw violence
Ruud Gullit: Euros will confront racism

Former international Boudewijn Zenden remains hopeful that the 1988 champions can continue their record of reaching the last eight in their last six appearances at the tournament.

"Two-nil to Holland -- I'm still confident! It's going to be really, really tough. Portugal needs to win, Holland needs to win ... Denmark needs to win -- it's still a group where anything can happen," he said.

Zenden, who helped the "Oranje" reach the semifinals of Euro 2000 and 2004, said coach Bert van Marwijk might make changes against Portugal.

"The manager hasn't changed much over the last years, he always tries to play with two central holding midfielders and let the other four play in front of them and go forward," the 35-year-old said.

"There's been a lot of talk in the press that maybe he should play just one holding midfielder and put maybe Rafael van der Vaart back in the team to get some more drive forward.

"The big shout is for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is the top goalscorer in the Bundesliga, for him to play up front and maybe find a different position for Van Persie, so maybe that's what will happen.

"He made a big point by substituting (captain and the coach's son-in-law) Mark van Bommel the other day at halftime. Ibrahim Afellay got dragged off, it's all signals that there has to be a change when playing against Portugal."

Van Marwijk has been in charge since 2008, and last year extended his contract until Euro 2016, but Zenden suggested that the 60-year-old might not last that long if the Dutch crash out early.

"The Dutch FA came out and said even if they don't qualify he'll keep his job. We know that Van Marwijk signed a new deal with a clause in there (saying) when he finds a top team in Europe he can leave," Zenden said.

"Well maybe he put that in for himself. Maybe if it doesn't work out at the Euros, with mutual consent you can say, 'Well, if you find a nice club you can do it this way,' and he might say goodbye."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
June 29, 2012 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev pits holders Spain against Italy, between them the winners of the last two World Cups.
August 22, 2013 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Euro 2012: Images from 13th European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine.
June 29, 2012 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
Can English football reinvent its "warrior" style to emulate the success of freeflowing football nations such as Spain and Germany?
June 22, 2012 -- Updated 1202 GMT (2002 HKT)
Germany Greece
The Germany-Greece quarterfinal at Euro 2012 is just one example of when political and sporting lines become blurred.
June 20, 2012 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
CNN's panel of football experts look at the Euro 2012 contenders ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
With Euro 2012's group stage now over, CNN's Pedro Pinto picks out his highlights of the action in Poland and Ukraine.
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Nicklas Bendtner could be in trouble for his choice of underwear.
UEFA's decision to fine Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's name on his underpants during Euro 2012 may have opened a can of worms.
CNN's Alex Thomas wonders how such an exciting football team as Spain could become, as heretical as it may seem to say... boring.
June 14, 2012 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
Fighting in the streets of Warsaw during the opening week of Euro 2012 is a stark reminder that football's "disease" has not been cured.
CNN's Amanda Davies argues that footballers are picked for their sporting ability, not because they can do justice to their national song.
June 8, 2012 -- Updated 1346 GMT (2146 HKT)
Poland kicked off Euro 2012 as one of the underdogs. It is a far cry from the days when the nation was one of the most feared teams in world soccer.
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Euro 2012: Guess the tattoos
Euro 2012 is almost upon us and Europe's finest footballers will be marked men -- in more ways than one.
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
CNN World Sport looks at the challenges that teams and host countries Poland and Ukraine faced to get to the Euro 2012 cup.
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
As national teams arrive in Poland and Ukraine, will the tournament be a football success or overshadowed by racism?
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
A picture taken at Donetsk airport on June 6, 2012, shows flags reading Euro 2012 logo two days ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships opening in Warsaw. France will play its first match on June 11 against England.
If the pre-vote predictions had been accurate, football heavyweights Italy would be preparing to host the 2012 European Championship.
CNN's Pedro Pinto predicts who will fly and who will flop at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Have your say here.
June 6, 2012 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Portugal have never won a major tournament at senior level, could this be the year the Euro 2012 underdogs shine?
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
Some of Europe's best footballers will be missing in Poland and Ukraine this month, as the effects of another grueling season takes its toll.
June 5, 2012 -- Updated 2040 GMT (0440 HKT)
Can defending European champions Spain retain their title in Poland and Ukraine? CNN's Pedro Pinto reports.
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)
Euro 2012 is nearly here and the 16 competing nations have announced the final 23-man squads.
June 22, 2012 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Check out who is playing who, and where, as 16 teams compete at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
June 7, 2012 -- Updated 1920 GMT (0320 HKT)
The spotlight is on Ukrainian and Polish fans after a BBC investigation alleged racism was prevalent in the stands
Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland have told CNN a documentary accusing fans from both nations of racism was "unbalanced and biased."
May 18, 2012 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
UEFA president Michel Platini tells CNN he thinks Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the final of Euro 2012 in Ukraine -- if Germany reach it.
May 8, 2012 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
It was supposed to be a symbol of Ukraine's development, but next month's Euro 2012 tournament has become mired in controversy.
April 30, 2012 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
Poland and Ukraine will host the European Championships for the first time in 2012, welcoming 14 other teams and football fans from across the continent.
December 9, 2011 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
The build-up to next year's finals has truly begun, so here is CNN's guide to our top 10 most memorable European Championship moments.
December 9, 2011 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
With less than 200 days to go until Euro 2012 football fans across Europe can start to look forward to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
ADVERTISEMENT