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Ronaldo revels in Portugal's passage

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-26 07:32

Ronaldo revels in Portugal's passage

Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo rises for a header during his team's 4-0 Confederations Cup victory over New Zealand in Saint Petersburg, Russia on Saturday. Ronaldo netted a 33rd-minute penalty for his 75th international goal. AFP

Superstar shines to reach Confed semis despite off-field uncertainty

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia - Cristiano Ronaldo was thrilled to fire Portugal into the Confederations Cup semifinals after netting his 75th international goal in Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of New Zealand.

"I'm very happy to be in the semifinals. We're confident and want to win," said Ronaldo, who picked up his third straight man-of-the-match award in Russia.

The 32-year-old has a court date in Madrid next month, accused by Spanish authorities of tax evasion. The fallout has resulted in Ronaldo threatening to leave Real.

Despite the off-field turmoil and speculation about his future, the Portugal captain has dazzled on the pitch in Russia, scoring two goals in three matches.

Ronaldo converted a 33rd-minute penalty to fire the European champion in front in Saint Petersburg before Bernardo Silva turned in a second goal four minutes later.

Andre Silva added a third in the 80th minute before former Manchester United winger Nani, now of Valencia, completed the rout in stoppage time to ensure Portugal finished above Mexico in Group A on goal difference.

"I thought we played well in many parts of the game; in others, not so well. Overall though, it was a fair victory," said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo's strike, in his 142nd Portugal appearance, took him to within nine goals of legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas' European record of 84 at international level.

After demolishing the Kiwis, Portugal progressed as Group A winners and will face the runners-up in Group B - likely Germany or Chile - next Wednesday in Kazan for a place in the July 2 final.

Mexico eliminated host Russia with a 2-1 win to join Portugal on seven points, with the CONCACAF Gold Cup winner to meet the second-placed side from Group B in the last four.

Mexico makes it

Hirving Lozano's courageous second-half header sealed Mexico's comeback victory over 10-man Russia in Kazan.

The host took a deserved 25th-minute lead through Aleksandr Samedov, but Nestor Araujo equalized for Mexico with a looping header on the half hour.

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was then left embarrassed when Lozano nipped in front of him to head in from the edge of the area in the 52nd minute after a towering clearance caused chaos in the home defense.

Russia suffered a further blow when Yury Zhirkov was sent off in the 68th minute before substitute Igor Smolnikov blazed over from close range with 15 minutes remaining to compound its misery.

"We knew we were going to have a really tough game against a very strong side, which simply had to go for the win," said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

"This is a big victory for Mexican football. I think we deserved to win and we're delighted with the result and the performance of the team."

The match was Russia's final competitive test ahead of next year's World Cup, but coach Stanislav Cherchesov was upbeat despite his side's early exit.

"I'm confident that all the players who've taken part in the tournament will draw on the experience to develop and mature," said Cherchesov.

"Three quarters of the squad have never played at this level, and with new players coming through all the time, I'm optimistic about the future."

Agence France-Presse

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