‘A football genius’: Portugal boss Santos leads Ronaldo praise after hat-trick heroics
Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo was hailed as “a football genius” by manager Fernando Santos after the forward struck a sublime hat-trick to fire his team into the UEFA Nations League final.
Portugal beat Switzerland 3-1 in their semifinal at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, with 34-year-old captain fantastic Ronaldo netting in the first half and then adding a late double.
The Juventus star’s first was a thunderous free-kick midway through the first half, while his second was a powerful low drive meeting a cross just inside the box.
His third was arguably the pick of the lot, as the forward burst onto the ball on the left wing then taking out a Swiss defender with a stepover before firing past Yann Sommer.
The goals took Ronaldo’s tally to an incredible 88 in 157 games for his country, and put his tally of career hat-tricks on a remarkable 53.
It also meant he has scored in 10 consecutive major tournaments.
Portugal boss Santos led the plaudits for a man who is showing no sign of slowing up despite his advancing years.
"I was his coach in 2003 [at Sporting Lisbon] and I could see where he would go,” Santos said.
“There are genius paintings and sculptures and he is a football genius.”
Social media was also awash with praise for another rampant Ronaldo masterclass - which included some superlative pieces of skill.
3 - Cristiano Ronaldo has scored three goals in six previous semi-final appearances for Portugal (incl. World Cup, EUROs, Confederations Cup). Influential. pic.twitter.com/6MOBLQYxuO— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 5, 2019
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in 10 consecutive international tournaments over 15 years.TEN. pic.twitter.com/euW5m5jQG1— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 5, 2019
Wednesday’s game in Porto also saw some bizarre VAR drama when Switzerland equalized from the penalty spot in the second half.
Portugal’s Nelson Semedo fouled Switzerland's Steven Zuber in the box, only for referee Felix Brych to wave play on and then award the hosts a penalty when Bernardo Silva was fouled at the other end of the pitch in the next passage of play.
But the VAR called the play back to the first penalty incident, which Brych then viewed again and decided to award a spot-kick to the Swiss – which Ricardo Rodriguez converted.
In the end, however, Ronaldo was the difference as he fired his team into a final against either the Netherlands or England, who meet in Thursday’s second semifinal.