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Ricardo Quaresma emerges as Portugal’s other hero
Last Updated: 25/06/18 11:10pm
Ricardo Quaresma scored a stunning goal to help Portugal into the knockout stage with a 1-1 draw against Iran on Monday evening. Once seen as a wasted talent, Quaresma has enjoyed a surprise renaissance to resume his story alongside old friend Cristiano Ronaldo.
The first goal of Ricardo Quaresma's international career came in a 4-0 win against Belgium in March 2007. It was a trivela - a shot with the outside of his right foot that curled beyond the goalkeeper. The strike has since become his trademark. "I will never miss out on a chance to use the trivela," Quaresma once said. That latest chance came against Iran.
Portugal survive Iran scare
Portugal reached the last 16 of the World Cup as Group B runners-up after a controversial 1-1 draw with Iran in Saransk.
Portugal had been struggling to find their rhythm, Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to find his space. But despite all the suggestions to the contrary, the captain was not alone out there. Quaresma cut in from the right flank, played a one-two with Adrien Silva and proceeded to execute the trivela to perfection in beating Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
It was Ronaldo who had provided the assist for Quaresma's first trivela all those years ago against Belgium. The pair's careers have seemed intertwined - some would say juxtaposed - ever since. The bright young things of Portuguese football, the wizards of the wing who were set to dominate the European game together with their talent and trickery.
In the summer of 2003, while both still teenagers, they earned their big moves - one to Manchester United and the other to Barcelona. That was where things began to diverge. Ronaldo's gifts were harnessed and honed under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz. He was gently encouraged to curb the indulgences in his game.
Did Quaresma lack Ronaldo's dedication or did he lack that guidance? The two men are great friends but the move to Barcelona was not such a success with Frank Rijkaard unwilling to put his trust in Quaresma. He was sent packing to Porto and when he got his next chance in a big league he found himself on a collision course with Jose Mourinho.
Quaresma was not in Mourinho's squad for Inter's Champions League triumph in 2010. A season on the sidelines saw him miss out on that summer's World Cup having also been omitted four years earlier. So when the winger made the move to Al-Ahli in United Arab Emirates at the age of 29, that could have been the end of his story - a talent wasted.
Instead, a return to Porto reinvigorated Quaresma and while he was yet again left out of Portugal's World Cup squad in 2014, there followed the most spectacular of international redemptions under Fernando Santos. Quaresma got his glory at Euro 2016. The winner in extra time against Croatia. The decisive penalty in the shootout victory over Poland.
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He even got to come on as Ronaldo's replacement in the first half of Portugal's shock final win over France. It was a reminder that - on his day - Portuguese football's prodigal son can still conjure up magic tricks that are reminiscent of the great man himself. Now 34 and playing his club football for Besiktas, his goal against Iran is just the latest example of that.
"I think we did very well," Quaresma told reporters when receiving his man of the match award in the post-match press conference. "We have achieved our goal and now we have to recover over the next few days to think about the next match. We know the difficulties we're going to have against Uruguay. They are a big team with very big players."
Uruguay do indeed have the twin threat of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and will be dangerous opponents. But it will not be two versus one because Portugal are not quite a one-man team. Not when they can win Euro 2016 without Ronaldo on the pitch. Not when Quaresma can still come up with something as beautiful as the trivela.