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Quaresma, Ronaldo’s role reversal edges it for Portugal

Against Spain, it was a single moment of misfortune that broke Iran’s resolve. Against Portugal, it was a single moment of brilliance. In a game where Carlos Queiroz’s side came up against more illustrious opponents and again went toe-to-toe, Ricardo Quaresma proved decisive with the outside of his. It was a moment 15 years in the making. The winger made his Portugal debut in 2003, only 13 players have played more times for the European champions, and he turns 35 later this year, but this was his first appearance at a World Cup. Not that the European Championship has been considerably kinder: this was only his third start at a major international tournament overall. Perhaps one of those rejections in particular spurred on a goal that would come to break Iranian hearts in Saransk. Quaresma could hardly have complained after missing out on Queiroz’s 23-man squad for South Africa eight years ago, such was the poor club form that has characterised much of his career. But there was a sense of revenge being served as he struck on the stroke of half-time. Portugal were not quite the damsel in distress at that point, but they needed rescuing before the situation worsened. Iran troubled Spain last week and deserved more than a 1-0 defeat, and again combined staunch defending with a latent and dangerous threat on the counter-attack. They were given little hope of progressing from Group B, but came within a Vahid Amiri stoppage-time miss of snatching top spot. The stadium erupted when his strike rippled the side netting, and the scores agonisingly stayed level at 1-1. A few inches to the right, and Iran would have made the knockouts at Portugal’s expense. It is a cruel exit on the slimmest of margins. Not even Cristiano Ronaldo had a response. An early shot on target in a bright start was a false dawn on a difficult evening for the forward. His missed penalty in the second half eventually did not prove fatal to anyone or anything other than his ego. But it did provide an unfamiliar storyline for these two childhood friends. Both emerged through the ranks at Sporting Lisbon – as did six more of Portugal’s starting line-up – but the paths they have taken since could not have been more diverse. Ronaldo has established himself as one of the greatest to have ever played the game; Quaresma has proved himself to be one of the most frustrating. If it feels unfavourable to see Quaresma as what Ronaldo could have been with poorer direction and influence, it is not intended as such. He is a phenomenal but imperfect talent, the more attainable and the more relatable. He is the endearing ‘before’ to Ronaldo’s near-perfect ‘after’. On Monday evening, those well-defined roles were reversed for 90 minutes. As Ronaldo toiled, Quaresma’s talent told. Receiving the ball on the right wing, he created space with a one-two and curled the ball into the far corner with his instep. It was a wonderful strike with a Silva lining, ably assisted by Adrien’s backheel. “I have mastered it from the moment I was born,” Quaresma once said of his trademark trivela, and this was mastery at its absolute finest on the biggest stage. It was almost good enough to overshadow the game’s abhorrent implementation of VAR. Almost. Referee Enrique Caceres provided the most compelling argument against its introduction to the game with a haphazard, confusing performance in the middle. He used the technology with unerring frequency, guaranteeing controversy as opposed to eliminating it as promised. The eventual, comical and incorrect award of a penalty for handball against Cedric Soares culminated in Karim Ansarifard scoring from the spot to set up a grandstand finish, but Iran could not quite cross the finish line in time. They may feel a sense of injustice, a belief that they were robbed, but a 1-1 draw meant that Quaresma’s long-awaited moment was not stolen from him. For once, Ronaldo owes one of his teammates instead of the other way around. Matt Stead   The post Quaresma, Ronaldo’s role reversal edges it for Portugal appeared first on Football365....


Published By: Fottball 365 - Monday, 25 June

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