Donetsk, Ukraine – Portugal should be proud of their performance at Euro 2012, even if their campaign ended in Wednesday's crushing defeat in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals to holders Spain, forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani insisted.
“We didn't lack for conviction but we were unlucky. That's penalties for you,” said Ronaldo, whose frustration was apparent after he did not even get to take his kick as Portugal's final penalty-taker, Cesc Fabregas had already wrapped things up at 4-2 to Spain, meaning there was no way back.
Spain keeper and Ronaldo's Real Madrid clubmate Iker Casillas had ensured as much by saving from Joao Moutinho while Bruno Alves hit the crossbar.
“We really gave it all we had, and it's difficult to go out on penalties. We showed a lot of quality,” said Manchester United star Nani, who put away his kick after appearing to push Alves down the pecking order.
“In the end Spain simply had more luck than we did. But people in Portugal can be proud of their team. We are sad as we deserved to be in the final – but we can go home with our heads held high,” Nani insisted in an echo of England coach Roy Hodgson, whose own side tasted defeat in a penalty shootout against Italy in the quarter-finals.
The loss after 120 tense minutes had ended goalless meant Portugal failed to reach only their second trophy match after Euro 2004 on home soil.
Yet it appeared their penalty-taking strategy had backfired with Ronaldo saved until last – too late to make a difference.
Ronaldo's and Casillas' clubmate Pepe insisted penalties could have no bearing on who was the better team.
“Spotkicks are always a lottery. During the game we were organised and they hardly had a shot on goal – it's so sad we lost the shootout,” said the central defender.
“I think people will be proud of us, even so, for what we achieved here.
“We are a young group and we will have other opportunities in future.”
Striker Nelson Oliveira insisted that the Portuguese could not be faulted for their showing against the world and European champions.
“Of course we are unhappy we didn't make it but we should hold our heads high. We did all we could but sadly that wasn't quite enough to get to the final.
“We played very well and absolutely matched Spain all the way.” – Sapa-AFP