Monday, July 15, 2024

Martinez salutes Ronaldo and Diogo Costa as shootout hero revels in ´best game of my life´

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Jul 2024

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Roberto Martinez paid tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo’s character and Diogo Costa’s penalty shootout heroics after Portugal scraped through to the Euro 2024 quarter-finals.

The 2016 champions were given an almighty scare by a stubborn Slovenia, who kept them at bay for 120 minutes at Frankfurt Arena – thanks largely to Jan Oblak in goal.

The Atletico Madrid stopper reduced Ronaldo to tears when he saved his tame penalty in the first half of extra time. However, the Portugal skipper made no mistake in the shootout, where Diogo Costa took centre stage.

The Porto goalkeeper, who produced a crucial save to deny Benjamin Sesko in the second half of extra time, then kept out all three Slovenia kicks from Josip Ilicic, Jure Balkovec and Benjamin Verbic.

And Martinez was full of admiration for the efforts of both players.

“Ronaldo missed a penalty and then was decisive when he started the penalty shoot-out, he paved the way,” the Portugal head coach told EURO2024.com.

“It was a victory for unity, from the dressing room and Cristiano is our captain. He showed that in life and in football, there are difficult moments and we can’t give up, we have to keep going and it was a demonstration of what to do when things aren’t going well.”

“We worked very well, the energy, strength and passion in the dressing room to win a game like that is incredible.”

On Diogo Costa, Martinez added: “The secret of Portugal is Diogo Costa, he’s the most hidden secret in European football.

“Today, he appeared on a different level, he was incredible in the one-on-one situation [with Sesko], and then he had the focus and quality to make three consecutive saves in the shootout. We have to be very proud of him.”

Diogo Costa became the first goalkeeper to ever save three penalties in a European Championship shootout.

“This is probably the best game of my life,” he said. “I focused on doing what I had to do. I went with my gut feeling. Of course, we analysed the penalty takers, but players change, and they change how they shoot.

“I am very happy and very excited to have helped the team. These are the hardest games as I barely touched the ball, but the hard work paid off.

“We all felt we needed to keep believing [after Ronaldo’s first penalty]. We believed until the very end, and we’re all very happy.”

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