Portuguese rally around skipper Ronaldo

Portugal have rallied around captain Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal against the Czech Republic here.

It will be the third meeting between the two sides in the last five championships, with each side having won one apiece — the most important belonging to the Czechs in the 1996 quarterfinals on their way to losing to Germany in the final. 

Paulo Bento’s Portugal have got where they are thanks to their team ethic and after seeing Ronaldo finally click into gear in Sunday’s game against the hapless Dutch to score both goals in the 2-1 win.

They have been accused of creating a cult of personality around their 27-year-old captain but the team have circled the wagons in the face of what they see as unjustified criticism.

“The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most professional players I have ever come across,” said midfielder Raul Meireles. “He gives his all at every training session,’’ he added.

“He is our leader and, on the pitch, there is no one who wants to win more than him,’’ Meireles said. “He scored twice in the last match; before he had drawn a blank but he had still helped us out in other ways,’’ he added.

The Czech’s outstanding goalkeeper, Petr Cech, acknowledges the Portuguese are favourites for this match and says the team is made up of more than just Ronaldo.

“They are among the world’s top 10 teams. It’s a team full of personalities and outstanding players and they play very well. Against the Netherlands on Sunday, they were excellent up front,” said the Chelsea number one.

“They also have enough experienced players. The team has matured and it’s really strong,’’ Cech said.

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