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Cristiano Ronaldo shows he still has a part to play for Portugal - Euro 2024 hits and misses

Plus: 41-year-old Pepe also turns in impressive display for Portugal; giant Georgia No 1 Giorgi Mamardashvili shows why he may be Newcastle-bound this summer; Turkey must turn up against Czech Republic in order to secure second place in Group F

Ronaldo still has role to play for Portugal

Group F, Matchday 2, Dortmund stadium, Portugal's Bruno Fernandes (r-l) celebrates his goal for 0:3 with Portugal's Joao Cancelo and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo contributed to Portugal's 3-0 win over Turkey with an assist

When Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped from the Portugal team during the 2022 World Cup and his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick, that felt like it might be the end for the great forward at international level. He was already bound for Saudi Arabia.

But Roberto Martinez saw a role for him in his Portugal team and the 39-year-old icon has responded. Ten goals in qualifying suggested that he still has it. He is still waiting for his first at Euro 2024 but only because he chose to pass to Bruno Fernandes instead.

That was his seventh assist in European Championship matches, the most of any player since records began in 1968. Ronaldo is seen as a soloist and there are hints of histrionics here, those flailing arms when the ball somehow does not come his way.

But with quality and movement around him, he was in his element in Portugal's 3-0 win over Turkey. Fernandes and Bernardo Silva bring the craft but there is also pace out wide and class in those deep midfield positions too. And what depth in the squad as well.

Twenty years on from Ronaldo's first appearance at the Euros, that near miss on home soil against Greece, and eight years on from the triumph in France that came only after he had been forced off through injury, perhaps another special moment awaits.
Adam Bate

But Pepe is the veteran hero for Portugal

Portugal's Pepe in action during a Group F match between Turkey and Portugal at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Image: Pepe rolled back the years with a dominant display at the back for Portugal

Ronaldo may be 39 but he is not the senior figure in Portugal's squad and in this win over Turkey he was not the most impressive veteran on the pitch either. Pepe, the vastly-experienced centre-back, produced a defensive masterclass at the age of 41.

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Given his advancing years, Turkey might have hoped to be able to target him, but Pepe showed there remains more to his game than mere positioning and nous, he was aggressive and showed good pace on the odd occasion when he was vulnerable.

There was an ovation at the end when he was given a few minutes rest with the game won. This magnificent display suggests his partnership with Ruben Dias can take Portugal far in this tournament. Pepe's story continues and it is a remarkable one.
Adam Bate

Turkey must turn up against Czech Rep to finish with a flourish

Image: Turkey remain second in Group F despite their defeat to Portugal

Turkey were given a run for their money against newcomers Georgia in their opening fixture on Tuesday but, helped along the way by world-class strikes from Mert Muldur and Arda Guler, the 3-1 scoreline perhaps didn't tell the whole story.

The 3-0 defeat at the hands of Portugal did.

Had Kerem Akturkoglu not squandered his golden early opportunity, the landscape might have been different, but it was clear there was no way back after Samet Akaydin's calamitous own goal, not least because only once in Euros history had a team come from 2+ goals down at half time to win (Germany against Yugoslavia in 1976).

Guler was introduced with 20 minutes to play, but he couldn't inspire the unlikely comeback. The fact Turkey created just 0.08 xG in the second half said it all.

Vincenzo Montella's side remain second in Group F and are still in pole position to qualify as runners-up, but a more front-foot performance will be required against the Czech Republic on Wednesday to make sure of it.
Dan Long

Giant Mamardashvili shows why Newcastle want him as their No 1 next season

Giorgi Mamardashvili
Image: Georgia No 1 Giorgi Mamardashvili was player of the match against the Czechs

You can see why Newcastle United's scouts have reportedly been tracking Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili after his impressive display helped his country pick up their first-ever point in a major tournament against the Czech Republic in Hamburg on Saturday.

The giant Valencia shot stopper, who the Magpies are understood to be interested in signing for £35m this summer, was virtually unbeatable as Czech shots - 12 of which were on target - rained down on him from all directions and distances at the Imtech Arena.

Mamardashvili was equal to them, though, apart from Patrik Schick's close-range equaliser which he could do nothing about and it is little wonder all his team-mates ran to him at the full-time whistle.

As no side have ever had so many efforts on target in the European Championship without winning, dating back to when records began in 1980, and if the 23-year-old carries on performing like that, then there is no reason why Willy Sagnol's side cannot make it through to the last 16 of the tournament.
Richard Morgan

Czechs desperate to have record-breaking Schick back for final Group F showdown

Czech Republic's Patrik Schick celebrates after scoring his side first goal during a Group F match between Georgia and the Czech Republic at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Hamburg, Germany, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Image: Patrik Schick celebrates after scoring the Czech Republic's equaliser against Georgia

Patrik Schick's vital close-range strike that earned the Czech Republic a deserved point against Georgia was the striker's sixth goal in the European Championship in just seven games, outstanding numbers which now place him only behind France's Michel Platini when it comes to the best strike rates in the competition's history for those who have played at least five matches.

That goal just before the hour mark may have kept alive his side's hopes of progressing to the knockout phase of the tournament, but that was the last bit of good news for the Bayer Leverkusen forward, who was substituted with a worrying-looking calf issue less than 10 minutes later.

Schick, 28, immediately had his calf bandaged with ice in the dugout and while he was tight-lipped about the injury after the game, the Czechs will be absolutely desperate to have the man who is now their leading scorer in the Euros fit to lead the line in their huge must-win final Group F clash with Turkey on Wednesday night.
Richard Morgan

Belgium up and running but doubts remain

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his side's second goal
Image: Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his side's second goal

Belgium are tactically set up to play like a modern-day team, full of attacking intent and counter pressing. That was on show as they arrived at the Euro 2024 party with a 2-0 win over Romania. Kevin De Bruyne did Kevin De Bruyne things in an all-action display, Romelu Lukaku led the line intelligently but without any luck and Jeremy Doku dazzled. Going forward they are capable of going deep in Germany. The defence is the worry.

Opposition teams carrying more quality than Romania would have feasted on at least a couple of goals. Wout Faes and Amadou Onana lack concentration and were fortunate their errors were not punished. Romania created two big chances - a metric defined by Opta - but wasted both of them and managed to get 14 shots away towards the Belgium goal. The attack is capable of winning this tournament. The defence is certainly not. Don't let the clean sheet fool you.
Lewis Jones

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