Euro 2020: Can Cristiano Ronaldo inspire Portugal to end their barren run against Germany?

Portugal, who haven't beaten Germany in 21 years, will be hoping to make history on Saturday, driven by their talismanic forward, Ronaldo.

File photo - Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Portugal; Credit: [email protected]

When the draw for Euro 2020 was announced, one group in particular drew the attention of fans – Group F, often known as the “Group of Death” by many. Former champions Germany and France are in the same group as defending champions Portugal, with Hungary as the unlucky fourth team. Normally a group of this magnitude will see one of the big teams get knocked out in the group stage, but that is not the case this time around. With four best third-placed teams having the chance to make it out of the group, the big three can still progress into the knockout stages.

After the end of the first round matches, Portugal are sitting at the top of the table, and France are second. Surprisingly Germany are in a spot of bother, having fallen to third place. Normally the Germans go into any tournament as favourites for the trophy, but they struggled to find their feet at the 2018 World Cup in Russia when they failed to make it out of the group. After seeing their disappointing performance against France in the opening match in the Euro 2020, fans can be forgiven for fearing the worst again.

Joachim Low’s side have a great chance to get their tournament back on track when they face Portugal on Saturday in their second group match. A win against the defending champions can re-announce the Germans as one of the favourites in the tournament. But, it is easier said than done. Portugal are heading into the tournament with a solid look about them. For the first time in a long while, they have quality players across all areas of the pitch.

A solid look

Starting from a reliable goalkeeper in Rui Patricio, to a solid defence led by Premier League’s player of the season Ruben Dias, they are strong in the defensive third. Fernando Santos’ men are equally good in the midfield with two strong holding players in Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho. They are supported well by Ruben Neves, Renato Sanches and Joao Moutinho.

Portugal have plenty of attacking options, starting with Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, Liverpool’s Diogo Jota among others. They’re led by their talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who has carried his impressive domestic form into the international level, scoring a brace in their opener against Hungary.

The 3-0 victory over Hungary in their opening match was mostly highlighted by Ronaldo’s record-breaking effort. The Portugal skipper, who became the first player to feature in five European Championships, is now the all-time leading scorer in the competition. With the double, the striker now has 11 goals, leapfrogging Michel Platini’s tally of nine strikes for France.

Besides, Ronaldo is also closing in on another major record. He is only three goals shy of former Iran striker Ali Daei’s tally of 109 international goals. With the form he is currently in, the former Real Madrid striker might very well break that record in this tournament.

Portugal’s unwanted record against Germans

Despite brimming with confidence following their opening match win, Portugal still need to do a lot to end the barren run against Germany. They have not beaten the Germans in 21 years. The last time Portugal beat Germany was in the Euro 2000 group stages when they won 3-0 thanks to a Sergio Conceicao hat-trick. It was the last time Germany conceded three or more goals by the same player in a major tournament game.

Germany have won all four of its meetings with Portugal since then. Beginning with a third-place match victory in the 2006 World Cup, Germany went on to defeat Portugal in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals, the Euro 2012 group stage, and the 2014 World Cup group stage. This shows the difficult task Portugal have in their hands to get the better of the European heavyweight.

With a quality team at their disposal led by superstar Ronaldo, this might very well be a great chance for the Portuguese to break that unwanted record. However, the Portugese skipper has not enjoyed a great time against their much-fancied opponent. Despite attempting 23 shots in 360 minutes, Ronaldo has never scored against Germany in four appearances. Saturday will be a perfect time for him to end that lean streak.

In terms of form, Portugal are the favourites. They have won 19 and drawn nine of its previous 30 matches across all competitions, scoring 67 goals and conceding 19. With just two defeats in that period, Portugal will be high on confidence against the traditional European heavyweight.

The last time when Portugal defeated Germany was 21 years ago. That day, Sergio Conceicao was their hero, hitting a spectacular hat-trick. This time around, Ronaldo might have to take up the responsibility to help his side register an unlikely win. It is unfair to expect a single player to dictate the fate of a result. But if anyone can pull it off, it’s Ronaldo!

Sportslumo Desk

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