BY DICKSON AGBO
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 75th international goal as Portugal trounced New Zealand 4-0 in Saint Petersburg on Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.
The Real Madrid star struck from the penalty spot on 33 minutes to fire the European champions in front before Bernardo Silva turned in a second goal four minutes later.
Andre Silva added a third on 80 minutes before Nani completed the rout in stoppage time to ensure Portugal progressed to last four as winners of Group A, finishing above Mexico on goal difference.
Mexico eliminated hosts Russia with a 2-1 win in Kazan to join Portugal on seven points, with Fernando Santos’ side to face the runners-up of Group B on Wednesday for a place in the July 2 final.
Copa America holders Chile lead Germany on goal difference ahead of the final round of matches in Group B, although Australia and Cameroon still harbour outside qualification hopes.
Santos fielded an attacking line-up packed with experience and resisted the temptation to rest Ronaldo with Portugal still requiring a point to qualify and vying with Mexico and Russia for top spot.
Russia will probably feel they could have given more in their two defeats to Portugal and Mexico but the authorities and fans can be proud of what has been a successful event so far. Stadiums have been relatively full and there is an ease of operation around the venues. Thousands of smiling volunteers are only too happy to help.
And far from gangs of MMA fighters lying in wait for opposition fans in dark alleys, the Russian supporters have done plenty to overturn any preconceived notion travelers might have had about coming here. Russian football supporters get plenty of negative press but here they showed that characterizations in the western press are moronic.
They are couples, friends, parents and children, just like you’d find anywhere else on the continent. It’s a shame the home support has no more matches to look forward to.