Ronaldo’s Euro Cup Journey Ends as France Overcomes Portugal in Penalty Shootout

France’s streak of penalty shootout failures has finally ended, coinciding with Cristiano Ronaldo’s last European Championship appearance. In a high-stakes encounter, it was Kylian Mbappé — not his idol Ronaldo — who propelled France to the semifinals, where they will face Spain. The match concluded in a 0-0 stalemate on Friday, with France emerging victorious 5-3 in the penalty shootout.

Portugal’s substitute Joao Felix hit the post with the only miss in the shootout, and Theo Hernández coolly slotted the decisive penalty into the top corner.

This marked Ronaldo’s sixth and final European Championship at age 39. He successfully scored Portugal’s first penalty in the shootout and later comforted his 41-year-old teammate Pepe, who was in tears on his captain’s shoulder. “We need to go through this moment of our loss, which is very painful,” Pepe said.

Ronaldo’s remarkable 20-year career in the Euros includes the 2016 title when Portugal defeated France in the final. Whether the five-time world player of the year will continue playing for his country until the 2026 World Cup, by which time he will be 41, remains uncertain.

“Everything is too raw,” said Portugal coach Roberto Martinez when asked if this was Ronaldo’s last game for his country. “We are suffering a defeat as a team — there are no individual decisions at this point.”

This victory ended recent shootout misfortunes for Mbappé and France, who were eliminated similarly in the last two major tournaments — in the last 16 of Euro 2021 and the 2022 World Cup final.

Prior to Friday’s match, France’s last successful shootout was in the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup against Italy, marking 26 years of shootout frustrations.

Mbappé did not take a penalty this time, having been substituted during extra time after receiving several knocks to his broken nose, which was protected by a mask. France coach Didier Deschamps said his captain was also exhausted.

Les Bleus did not need their star player, as Ousmane Dembele, Youssouf Fofana, Jules Kounde, and Bradley Barcola all scored in the shootout before Hernández’s decisive goal ignited celebrations among French fans in Hamburg.

“It wasn’t easy,” France goalkeeper Mike Maignan said. “We didn’t always play that great; it was a complicated game. We got to the penalty shootout and didn’t waver. We can be proud of ourselves.”

France will now face Spain in the semifinals following Spain’s extra-time win over Germany in Stuttgart earlier on Friday. Les Bleus are on track for their third European Championship title, having previously won in 1984 and 2000.

Deschamps’ team has reached the semifinals despite no French player scoring from open play so far in the tournament. However, their defense has been exceptional, conceding just one goal — a retaken penalty by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in the group stage.

“We are solid and exemplary in defense and that is essential at a major tournament,” Deschamps said. “When you don’t score many goals, it’s best not to concede many either. But we need to score more goals… we are at the mercy of our opponents.”

Portugal exited after failing to score in either of their knockout games — the team beat Slovenia on penalties in the last 16 — and their final group match, leaving Martinez with many questions to answer.

“From our side, we deserved to win,” the Portugal coach said. “But we are talking about playing against the best players in Europe. It’s a sad night.”

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