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Diogo Costa of Portugal celebrates after saving the second penalty from Jure Balkovec of Slovenia in the penalty shoot out during their EURO 2024 R16 match at Frankfurt Arena on July 01, 2024 in Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)


Ronaldo misses extra time penalty but hero keeper Costa hands Portugal repeat showdown with France

Shootout dramatics engulfed the UEFA Euro finals as Portugal went to the final frontier before overcoming battling Slovenia 3-0 on penalties after an extra-time draw in their Round of 16 duel in Frankfurt.

In the quarter-finals on Friday, they will face France who needed a late own goal to sneak a 1-0 victory over neighbours Belgium.

For once Portugal’s hero was not Cristiano Ronaldo but their 24-year-old Swiss-born goalkeeper, Diogo Costa. He saved his team from falling behind in extra time and then stopped all three Slovene spot kicks, the first keeper to achieve such a Euro shootout treble.

Portugal captain Ronaldo endured both agony and ecstasy in the latest drama in his record sixth championship. He was repeatedly off-target with free kicks in normal time, had a penalty saved by opposing captain Jan Oblak in extra time but then stepped up to convert Portugal’s second kick in the shootout.

Ronaldo’s tears after his penalty miss turned to satisfied and relieved smiles in celebration after Bernardo Silva’s decisive third kick.

He said: “Sadness at the start is joy at the end. That’s what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments. I don’t know if I shot well or badly but I think Portugal deserved the win because we had more authority. Slovenia spent almost the entire game defending.”

Before this tie Ronaldo had converted all his previous 24 penalties but has missed three of his last nine kicks in major tournaments.

Hero keeper Costa said: “I went with my gut feeling. Of course, we had analysed the penalty takers but players change and they change how they shoot. This is probably the best game of my life.”

Portugal dominated possession for almost all the 120 minutes but were held at bay by a superbly disciplined defensive display by Slovenia. The outsiders created two clear chances to snatch victory. Both fell to Benjamin Sesko. In the 66th minute he sliced wide under pressure from Pepe. Then, in the second half of extra time, a mistake by the veteran defender allowed Sesko to race clear on goal only for Diogo Costa to save with an outstretched left foot.

The Portuguese now face France, whom they beat in both the 2016 final.

Former European champions France find themselves in the quarter-finals despite having yet to score a goal from open play at the finals. They had progressed from the group stage with a penalty and an own goal before profiting from another own goal, this time from veteran defender Jan Vertonghen who deflected an angled shot by Randal Kolo Muani.

France had previously beaten Belgium in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the 2021 Nations League but some off-key finishing by captain Kylian Mbappe provided the Red Devils with an escape route until five minutes from time.

Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco was baffled that his team had failed to score in all but one of their four games in Germany. He said: “It’s unbelievable to think that Romelu Romelu will go home with zero goals after this kind of games, and Jeremy Doku with zero goals and zero assists.”

Credit: AIPS Media 

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