Misfiring Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has found an unlikely ally at Euro 2016 in the form of Albania hero Armando Sadiku.
The Zurich striker netted his country’s first goal of their major tournament debut with what proved to be a memorable winner in the 1-0 victory over Romania in Lyon on Sunday.
It was pointed out to Sadiku that he now has more goals at this European Championship than Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, who is proving something of a pantomime villain after criticising Iceland and missing a penalty against Austria.
But Sadiku, who was named after Argentina icon Diego Armando Maradona by his parents, stood up for the Real Madrid forward and sympathised with the plight of a fellow lone frontman.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world, he’s my idol,” he said.
“Ok, he wasn’t so good yesterday [Saturday], but I think he’s a little bit tired. He’s won the Champions League, played 50 games [sic] in La Liga, but he’s the best player in the world.
“It’s difficult to play as a lone striker against four defenders.
“The mentality of our team is to be good defensively and then counter-attack, so for me it’s difficult. I’m kaput, but I scored so I’m so happy.”
Sadiku and Albania, having made history with their first victory on the big stage, must now wait for the other group-stage matches to be played before learning if they will progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.
“This win is for the fans, they’re incredible,” he added.
“Today’s the best day for football in Albania. I’ve seen some videos on my phone of Tirana. The city is burning.
“Afterwards in the dressing room everyone was so motivated. There was a little party, but we don’t know if we’ll qualify.
“It’s a little bit emotional to see the other games. Of course I’ll watch the other games with the team and say ‘God please!'”
Sadiku’s coach Giovanni De Biasi believes his team have proven themselves worthy of a spot in the knockout stages.
“I hope we can do it,” he said.
“I’m a positive person. I think we deserved it. I truly believe that. We proved we can play these games against top teams with more quality.”
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