Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick sends Portugal into Nations League final
Portugal have qualified for the final of the UEFA Nations League after beating Switzerland 3-1 last night in Porto behind a stunning performance from Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored the 58th hat-trick of his legendary career.
“He is a genius,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said after the match. “There are genius painters and genius sculptors, but he is a genius of football.”
Not only did he almost single-handedly lead Portugal to the win, he did so with three amazing goals. The first was an unstoppable free-kick in the first-half followed by a perfectly placed right-foot finish inside the box in the second half when the game was level with just three more minutes to go before extra-time.
He completed his hat-trick near the 90th minute mark, completing a quick counter-attack that saw him dribble past the last man of the Swiss defence and fire a ‘missile’ into the back of Yann Sommer’s net.
It was yet another historic performance that will help cement Ronaldo’s legacy as one of the all-time best footballers, especially considering that Portugal at times looked like a shell of the team that they can be.
Switzerland was the stronger side for long spells, although their goal was the result of one of the most questionable decisions made by a VAR (video assistant referee).
Portugal was ahead by a goal and had just been awarded a penalty after Manchester City star Bernardo Silva was fouled inside the Swiss box. Ronaldo was getting ready to take the penalty, but German referee Felix Brych decided to check the VAR monitor to review a play that had happened before the foul that resulted in the penalty.
It was to everyone’s shock when he pointed to the penalty mark but on the opposite side of the pitch, apparently due to a foul committed by Nélson Semedo which international sports press has almost unanimously dubbed one of the most bewildering decisions ever made by a VAR.
Ricardo Rodriguez was not bothered and levelled the match before Ronaldo completed his heroics in the final minutes.
While able to quality for the final, Portugal will want to improve its performance for the final, scheduled for Sunday, in order to make history and become the first winner of the UEFA Nations League.
The other finalist will be decided today as England and Netherlands will face off at 7.45pm at Estádio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães.