Ronaldo’s 109th fires Portugal to the knockout stages as they held France with a 2-2 draw as Benzema resurgent

June 24, 2021

The drama, the romance, the heart clinching scenarios, the hero’s gravity defying jumps- No! I am not talking about some Tom Cruises’ movie, I am talking about the tale of a person whose name creates and breaks record in the footballing community. Yes, you guessed it right its none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. It had been just another day at office for the Portuguese skipper as he equaled the All time Top Scorers record in the international circuit and put himself at par with Ali Dae’s(the Iranian soccer icon) by scoring his 109th goal against the World Champions and put his country through to the knockout stages of the European Championship.

Group F turned out to be everything we had hoped for- with the entire last minute spectacle as the former World Champions, Germany held Hungary to a thrilling 2-2 draw as the sky wept heavily in Munich and the Allianz Arena erupted with Leon Goretzka’s equalizer at the 84th minute which took Germany through to the next stage of the competition where they will face Gareth Southgate’s England. Well, as for the historic game between the defending European Champions and the World Champions was set in backdrop of anti-climactic conditions in the Puskas Arena, Budapest, Ronaldo announced himself the hero of the hour but Karim Benzema, his former Los Blancos teammate stole the show for France in a bit of an extravaganza and was named the Star of the Match when Antonio Lahoz ended his proceedings of the day.

Opponents on the pitch and friends off it

Karim Benzema thus silenced the debate of his importance in Didier Deschamps’ French side once and for all with his inspirational two goals backed performance which kept France at the top of the Group F and saved them from travelling to Wembley to face England. So, “All hail King Benzo!” for the French nation as they march on to face Switzerland in Bucharest on Monday for the next round of EURO finals. It was not easy though for Benzema to overshadow the performance of his former club mate Ronaldo but that’s the French spirit sometimes they sit back and when the time comes they surprise you with their best in their own classic way.

The Clash of the Titans as they say created lofty expectations to be precise. There were three penalties awarded, all converted among which two of them came at the back of highly controversial decisions confirmed by the VAR. Benzema’s outstanding finish as he made his mark after six years of national team exile, Rui Patricio’s incredible double save from an elegance of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann and an injury time penalty claim for Pepe’s foul on Kingsley Coman just at the edge of the byline which was rejected by the VAR. Crisitano Ronaldo chose the perfect occasion to fabricate his own symphony into the already woven knit of glory.

Football is pure magic. From one second to another the emotions can change and the morale of a team can switch quickly. It was a match on the top level. We are first in the group. Maybe other teams have given a better impression than France so far but now it is the last 16 and a new competition is starting.

~Didier Deschamps’ remarked

The starting line-up brought some eye brow rousing changes as Fernando Santos dropped Bruno Fernandez and William Carvalho and introduced the experienced Joao Moutinho and gave the 23 year old Renato Sanches his first start in this year’s EURO finals as a response to their 4-2 loss against Germany. Didier Deschamps called on for a hugely unchanged starting 11 except for Jules Kounde who came in to replace Benjamin Pavard being a common name in the right-back position had to be dropped due to card issues and Kounde went on to play his part quite well as he filled the shoes of Pavard which was not an easy job to be very honest.

Portugal kicked off the fixture holding their best foot forward to test Hugo Lloris with Renato Sanches’ chip in the goal over the French defenders but the custodian did his job quite well as he made the save. Then on, Portugal unleashed their strategy as Ronaldo dropped in front of the defense line as they kept the ball in between their circle of feet and swerved it around with Danilo, Guerreiro and Renato Sanches as they pushed the possession from the deep defense for Ronaldo to get the touch and break into the French defense line as Diego Jota and Bernardo Silva were kept free on both the flanks to assist and create the final passes.

Joao Moutinho put his experience to use as he marked N’Golo Kante’s movement closely and concentrated his presence to the right hand side of the half-way line. He also delivered the free-kick at the 27th minute and Danilo got his head to it but Lloris’ attempted punch for the ball hit the Portuguese midfielder’s face and he went down for the referee to award a highly debatable penalty kick. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to the occasion and hammered the ball in to his left way past Hugo Lloris and at the back of the net at the juncture of 31st minute. This was his first goal against France in seven attempts and what a better day to set all his records straight.

Hugo Lloris’ attempted punch at the ball
Ronaldo’s first penalty goal of the night

France started to lose a bit of their discipline as Lucas Hernandez and Antoine Griezmann were booked in quick succession. But not for long as Nelson Semedo conceded a penalty for a foul on Kylian Mbappe in the additional minutes of the first half. Karim Benzema took the penalty with clarity and exactness as he put the score line at parity with 45+2’ minutes on the clock and it was one goal apiece at Budapest. Cristiano Ronaldo came forward and gave his former teammate and the goalscorer a side hug just when Antony Lahoz blew the whistle which indicated the end of the first half.

Benzema’s first goal story

The second half reminded me of Antoine Griezmann’s word of insistence the other day when he said- “As soon as he does score the water will start flowing”, and he was not quite wrong as Karim Benzema did not disappoint his teammates yet again. Paul Pogba’s curled in through pass aimed for Benzema reached home at 47th minute as the Real Madrid forward swept his finish across the goal to the farther post and the linesmen lifted his flag for offside but the VAR intervened and awarded the goal. The frenzied celebration at the Puskas Arena with Hungary’s ongoing win in Germany proved to be fatal for the defending European Champions but all of it was short lived.

Benzema’s second goal story

Kounde’s raised arm inside the box as Ronaldo tried to cross was adjudged as handball and the referee pointed towards the penalty spot at the 60th minute and Cristiano Ronaldo sent Lloris the wrong way and scored his 109th goal which took away all the cohesion and tension away from his side. Rui Patricio’s heroic chronicle on the goal for Portugal needs to be mentioned every time someone talks about this fixture as his agility was well exhibited when he sent the ball away with a punch as Paul Pogba attempted to put a brilliant volley 25 yards out at the back of the goal and the ball ricocheted and reached Antoine Griezmann who was being tracked by Ruben Dias as he sent in a another shot but Rui Patricio punched it away with all his might.

Ronaldo’s 109th international goal

All the football fans around the world would agree with me when I say this that we live for nights like these. What a wonderful piece of strategic play from both the sides tickling every sensation with tears of joy and out of the world celebrations! Hungary needs to be respected for their exemplary performance and the spirit of not standing down even when Joachim Low’s men knocked their door.

Team News:

Portugal: Patricio; Semedo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Moutinho, Danilo, Sanches; Silva, Ronaldo, Jota

Subs: Lopes, Palhinha, Oliveira, Felix, R Silva, Dalot, Neves, Fernandes, A Silva, Fonte

France: Lloris; Koundé, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Kanté, Pogba; Tolisso, Griezmann, Mbappe; Benzema

Subs: Mandanda, Maignan, Lenglet, Pavard, Digne, Sissoko, Coman, Rabiot, Zouma, Ben Yeddder, Giroud, Lemar

Referee: A Lahoz (Spain)

Star of the Match: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema with the Star of the Match award