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Poland team rally around Blaszczykowski, whose penalty kick is saved
(Robert Lewandowski 2)
(Renato Sanches 33)
● 1-1 after extra time. Portugal win 5-3 on penalties.
Teammates rushed to rally round Polish midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski after a crucial penalty miss handed Portugal victory in their Euro 2016 quarter-final yesterday morning (Singapore time).
"We lost as a team, and not just one player," said striker Robert Lewandowski, who gave Poland a second-minute lead with his first goal of the tournament.
With Cristiano Ronaldo again subdued, his 18-year-old compatriot Renato Sanches took centre stage and hit Portugal's leveller on 33 minutes.
With no more goals, and Ronaldo missing chances, the match was pushed to penalty kicks, where heartbreak is guaranteed.
Blaszczykowski, popularly known as "Kuba", was Poland's hero in their last-16 clash with Switzerland.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who spent last season at Fiorentina on loan, hit Poland's opener, then booking their first quarter-final spot at a major Finals, when he converted from the spot after Granit Xhaka missed his effort at the penalty kicks.
The result meant Poland preserved their record of never having lost in 18 games when Blaszczykowski, 30, has scored.
In the latest penalty kick, Blaszczykowski's run was ended by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
When Ricardo Quaresma stepped up to score on the next kick, Portugal went through 5-3 on penalties.
"It doesn't matter that he (Blaszczykowski) missed his kick, he's still a great player and a big friend," said defender Kamil Glik, who is moving from Serie A's Torino to French side Monaco.
"He'd saved us a lot of times in this tournament by scoring in other games. That's what we told him."
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who left his place to Lukasz Fabianski because of injury, suggested nerves may have got to Blaszczykowski.
But, while admitting their disappointment, he believes Poland's march to the last eight for the first time augurs well for the future.
He said Poland had studied Portugal's penalty-taking. "But you never know, under pressure people can change where they go (shoot) and, unfortunately for us, they took their penalties really well today."
Szczesny added: "We've met expectations... we were one step away from being among the top four in Europe, so it's disappointing on one hand, but it's also a good reason for us to be proud of ourselves as well.
"We've had a fantastic journey, it's disappointing but we've done ourselves proud.
"We've done our fans proud and it's a good start to build on for this team."
Even Polish tennis player, Agnieszka Radwanska, chimed in.
STILL OUR HERO
The women's singles third seed at Wimbledon tweeted after the match: "And special thanks to Kuba Blaszcykowski who is still our hero and played a great tournament."
Earlier, Blaszczykowski had wished her good luck for her Wimbledon campaign in a uefa.com video.
Former Polish great and now the president of the Polish Football Federation, Zbigniew Boniek, offered his support to the team for reaching the last eight.
Glik added: "It's not the biggest disappointment of my career. That's football, sometimes you lose on penalty kicks.
"We have to stay positive. It was a balanced match in which we had chances just as they did. Portugal are a strong side." - AFP.
BY THE NUMBERS
0 Poland are out of Euro 2016 despite having never trailed in the tournament. They had beaten Northern Ireland and Ukraine both 1-0 and drawn 0-0 with Germany in the group stage, before drawing 1-1 with Switzerland in the Round of 16. Portugal, meanwhile, are in the semis despite drawing all their games.
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Portugal coach Santos hails 'amazing' Ronaldo
Portugal coach Fernando Santos hailed Cristiano Ronaldo's performance as "amazing" despite his failure to score as his side progressed to the Euro 2016 semi-finals with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out win over Poland yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Ronaldo is just one goal off matching Michel Platini's record of nine in Euro finals, but endured a frustrating night in front of goal during the 120 minutes in Marseille.
The Real Madrid star did net from the penalty spot in the shoot-out and Santos reserved special praise for Ronaldo and his club teammate Pepe.
"Pepe and Cristiano played an amazing game, sometimes people undervalue them," said Santos. "People focus on Ronaldo because he has to score, but he played amazing, he is a great captain.
"Pepe was amazing today too."
Portugal continue to be a paradox at Euro 2016, reaching the semi-finals without ever giving the kind of uplifting performance that their talented team should be capable of.
But there has been something strangely unsatisfying, and even exasperating, about their performances at Euro 2016.
Their style of play is not especially defensive, they do not commit more fouls than anyone else and their average of 19 goal attempts per game is the fourth highest at the tournament.
On the other hand, their second-round tie against Croatia was dire and the second hour of the match against Poland lulled Marseille's Stade Velodrome into near silence.
It has been pretty much the same story since the amiable Santos took over in September 2014, having led Greece to the last 16 at the World Cup.
Portugal are unbeaten in 12 competitive matches under his leadership, but their nine wins during that period have all been by single-goal margins.
Their line-up suggests they should be capable of more.
Three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, former Manchester United winger Nani, mercurial forward Ricardo Quaresma and midfielder Joao Moutinho have shown only the odd flash of their abilities.
Instead, Portugal have become a team who are difficult to beat, even more difficult to watch, and the talk after matches is invariably about unity, hard work and commitment.
They are also clinical in penalty shoot-outs and converted all five spot-kicks against Poland.
"We are a team with great character. I continue to say I'm only going home on July 11," said Santos, who has insisted since the start that Portugal will reach the final on July 10.
"You need to have courage to take penalties in a shoot-out, you need to have personality and cold blood, and the players had that."
Ronaldo was equally upbeat.
"Maybe nobody gave much for our chances, but we are now in the semi-finals," he said.
"It was a very important win, the team took the penalties well and fought hard. We are in the semi-finals and now anything in possible."
- Wire Services.
"Maybe nobody gave much for our chances but we are now in the semi-finals. It was a very important win, the team took the penalties well and fought hard. We are in the semi-finals and now anything in possible."
- Cristiano Ronaldo