A loss is hurtful no matter how it occurs, but there is extra pain when a penalty shootout decides the outcome in soccer. In Portugal's loss in the Euro Cup today there was yet another layer of pain - they lost without using their most talented boots.
Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the most talented player in the game, the Real Madrid star who became the first to score against every club in La Liga in one season this year, and who tallied 46 times in 38 games, was not called on in the shootout. Ronaldo was penciled in to be the fifth shooter in the semi-final in the Ukraine, a decision Portuguese coach Paulo Bento will forever be famous, or infamous for.
After the game remained scoreless after 120 minutes,. Bento's star stood idle and watched as two of his teammates, João Moutinho and Bruno Alves, missed. Moutinho shot too weakly to prevent Spanish keeper Iker Casillas from making a diving save, while Alves drilled an almost perfect shot - off the lower reach of the crossbar. When Cesc Fàbregas banged his shot off the side of the post Spain had a 4-2 penalty shot win and were on their way to the Euro Cup final. Ronaldo, a turn from him now having no point, was on his way home.
Christiano Ronaldo: "Penalties are like that"
Afterwards, Ronaldo said he agreed to shoot fifth and wouldn't criticize his coach or teammates. He did speak of what it felt like to fail. "My feeling is sadness," he said "Clearly to lose a semi-final on penalties is always hurtful but penalties are a lottery and the one with most luck is the one who wins. I think it was a very successful European Championship. We did well, we were among the best four teams at the tournament and we didn't win because we didn't have luck.
"But penalties are like that."
For his part, Bento brushed off questions on the decision that left his best boot idle for the penalty shootout loss. "We had a decided strategy," he said. "I don't regret anything." It is likely that back in Portugal there will be regret that Ronaldo did not get a chance to keep Portugal alive.