Euro 2016

Ron must deliver or Portugal face the boot

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo enjoying a light moment during training at the team's base camp in Marcoussis, south of Paris. It has been a frustrating tournament for him so far, with none of his 20 goal attempts finding the net.
Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo enjoying a light moment during training at the team's base camp in Marcoussis, south of Paris. It has been a frustrating tournament for him so far, with none of his 20 goal attempts finding the net. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GROUP F

Hungary v Portugal

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LYON • Portugal coach Fernando Santos is backing misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo to break his Euro 2016 duck by netting against Hungary today to help fire his side into the last 16.

The forward is still waiting for his opening goal in France to become the first person to score at four consecutive European Championships. The other player vying for the same honour is Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ronaldo, 31, is the holder of numerous scoring records, but he has yet to hit the net at Euro 2016, despite having 20 chances.

Like their captain, Portugal have failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as Group F favourites.

They lie only third in the table behind Iceland and Hungary, whom they must beat at the Stade de Lyon to be sure of reaching the last 16.

"Ronaldo is a player who scores a lot of goals. I'm sure he will score against Hungary," said Santos.

Portugal had 23 shots on goal in Saturday's goalless draw with Austria - hitting the woodwork twice - and the coach expects his side to win "ugly" if need be. "It was the first time we failed to score during my reign," he said. "We created so many chances, we didn't score, but I think we will next time out.

"We're sad but we have things in our own hands. It doesn't matter if we play better or ugly football."

Hungary's defence is not known for its generosity.

Since their 8-1 thrashing by the Netherlands in October 2013 - their record defeat - Hungary have conceded just 20 goals in 24 games.

Their 2-0 win over Austria and 1-1 draw with Iceland means they face Portugal top of Group F and in pole position to advance.

They need a draw to make sure of a top-two finish, although, even if they lose, they could qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Nevertheless, Bruno Alves said Portugal must back themselves to beat Hungary and book a last-16 clash on Sunday in Toulouse as group winners.

"It's up to us to break them down. We need to believe and trust in ourselves, that we are able to beat them," said the defender.

Portugal have won all five competitive games against Hungary and their two most recent victories came in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Ron must deliver or Portugal face the boot'. Print Edition | Subscribe