Kharkiv, Ukraine – Cristiano Ronaldo dedicated his goals to his baby son after claiming a brace in a 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Kharkiv that sent Portugal into the quarter-finals at Euro 2012.
Ronaldo's son, also named Cristiano, turned two on Sunday, while his father produced a thrilling display to hand Portugal a semi-final encounter with the Czech Republic in Warsaw on Thursday.
The Portuguese captain cancelled out Rafael van der Vaart's opener for the Dutch shortly before the half hour and then claimed the winning goal with 16 minutes left to crown a stirring individual performance.
“The team was spectacular. We deserve this qualification because we believed in it right until the end and all the players deserve to be congratulated,” he told Portuguese television.
“I'm very happy because today is also my son's birthday and I dedicate both my goals to him.”
Ronaldo was the only member of the Portuguese squad to address the foreign media, as his team-mates had reportedly decided to shun the press in protest at the criticism that their captain has received in recent weeks.
So often maligned for failing to recapture his Real Madrid form when wearing the colours of his country, Ronaldo was the dominant figure in Sunday's match at Metalist Stadium.
Aside from his two coolly taken goals, the 27-year-old hit the post twice, tested Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg on a number of occasions, and created gilt-edged chances for Fabio Coentrao and Nani in the second half.
It is the first time he has ever claimed a double at a major tournament and his brace took him to within one goal of competition top scorers Mario Gomez, Mario Mandzukic and Alan Dzagoev.
His performance against the Dutch hinted that he may finally be ready to leave his mark on an international competition, but Ronaldo said he could not afford to look too far ahead.
“We now have to take things match by match,” he said.
“Our aim was to get through the first phase. We've managed to do that and now anything is possible.
“We'll have an extremely difficult match against the Czech Republic. It's 50-50 and we'll have to respect them.”
The meeting with the Czech Republic will be a re-run of the quarter-final at Euro 96 in England, when a memorable scooped goal by Karel Poborsky settled the tie in the Czechs' favour.
Having emerged from a daunting group at the expense of both Holland and Denmark, Portugal will start as favourites this time, but coach Paulo Bento warned against complacency.
“We don't claim to be favourites,” he said.
“We don't think it's going to be easy. They were the first team to face Russia (who beat them 4-1) and they have also shown that they have the capacity to turn games around.
“Now we have to keep up our work and the quality that we have shown so far, and maybe we can reach the semi-finals.” – Sapa-AFP