Cristiano Ronaldo turns missed penalty tears into shootout ‘joy’

A game of epic personal drama and tears for Cristiano Ronaldo ended with his Portugal team making the European Championship quarterfinals after beating Slovenia in a penalty shootout on Monday.

The last-16 game went to a shootout because Ronaldo’s extra-time spot kick in the 114th minute was saved by Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Regulation and extra time finished 0-0.

When the teams went to penalties, Ronaldo scored his and Portugal’s first, and teammate Diogo Costa saved all three of Slovenia’s kicks, from Josip Ilicic, Jure Balkovec and Benjamin Verbič.

“Sadness at the start is joy at the end. That’s what football is. Moments, inexplicable moments,” Ronaldo said in an on-field interview immediately following the final whistle.

“A direct shot to give the team the lead. I didn’t manage it. Oblak made a good save … I have to see the penalty, I don’t know if I shot well or badly, but I haven’t missed once all year, and when I needed it most, Oblak saved it.”

Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva also scored for Portugal to seal the shootout 3-0 with two shots to spare.

“I think Portugal deserved it because we had more authority. Slovenia spent almost the entire game defending … it’s very difficult and the whole team is to be congratulated, especially our goalkeeper [Costa], who made three very good saves,” Ronaldo added.

Portugal will face France in the quarterfinals on Friday in Hamburg, a rematch of the 2016 final that Portugal won in Paris.

“He’s an example for us,” Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said of Ronaldo in his postmatch news conference. “Those emotions [after missing the penalty] are incredible. He doesn’t need to care that much after the career he has had and everything he has achieved.

“After missing the penalty, he was the first penalty taker. I was certain he had to be first and show us the way to victory. The way he reacted is an example, and we’re very proud.”

Costa already had made his first save when Ronaldo walked up to take Portugal’s first kick of the shootout and placed it perfectly low beyond Oblak diving to his right.

Ronaldo looked apologetically to the massed Portugal fans behind the goal and put his hands together as if in prayer. The fans responded with a bellowing shout of “Siuuuu” — their soccer icon’s trademark goal scream.

Costa answered the rest of those prayers with as good a penalty shootout as any goalkeeper ever had. Then he was in tears too.

A half-hour earlier, Ronaldo was distraught and crying at halftime in extra time after his penalty was saved by Oblak, who dove to his left to push the ball against a post.

It had been the latest victory for Oblak in their personal duel during a compelling 90 minutes of regulation time.

The intense extra-time drama followed a frustrating first 90 minutes for Ronaldo, who was — remarkably — still looking for his first goal at Euro 2024.

After three free kicks and two mistimed headers, the Portugal star seemed sure to score with his first clear shooting chance in open play.

It came in the 89th, when he ran clear on goal with the ball passed perfectly into his stride. The left-foot shot was low and powerful, but Oblak’s block was better. Ronaldo held out his arms in exasperation yet again.

The drama for the Portugal superstar almost overwhelmed the troubled evening for Slovenia’s emerging star.

Benjamin Sesko had golden chances to win the game, in the 62nd and 115th minutes, going one-on-one with Portugal goalie Costa after racing past 41-year-old defender Pepê.

The first was a weak shot that screwed wide of goal, and the second was powerful and accurate but saved by the outstretched boot of Costa.

Information from ESPN’s Rob Dawson, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.