Lay off C Ron

If only Bruno Alves had spoken to the ball as well – image from hurriyetdailynews.com

It’s not like he missed is it? Now that would be an offence deserving of serious vilification. Ok, so Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty plan backfired. As a result, Portugal crashed out of Euro 2012 and he’s had to take a lot of stick. It’s all about him and his ego, he’s not a team player, you ought to have your best players taking the early spot kicks to set the tone/relieve some of the pressure, centre halves shouldn’t have to take penalties ahead of forwards etc. etc. Yes, Ronaldo tried to arrange it so he would step up to take the glory penalty and sure, he is one of the biggest egos in world football. But give the guy a break. It was just one of those things. With the benefit of hindsight we can all say it was a mistake. And he knows now doesn’t he? There’s always a huge outpouring of sympathy for the unfortunate incompetent penalty missers (unless of course they’re caught out while trying the cheeky Antonín Panenka dink, Yann Kermogant-style) but people continually ignore the real issue. Slips, dodgy penalty spots or moving footballs aside, there is no real excuse for a professional player not putting a peno away. Defender or striker, great goalkeeper or Victor Valdés, pressure or no pressure, you really ought to be scoring a penalty.

Professional football players (and centre halves are professional footballers) should be able to put the ball out of reach of the goalkeeper from 12 yards every time. Especially as they are able to practice time and time again. Can you imagine Noel Gallagher stepping out in front of 50,000 people at Eastlands ready to play Don’t Look Back in Anger, then out of nowhere missing the C chord, striking a G# instead before dropping his Epiphone on his toes? João Moutinho and Bruno (not Daniel, no matter how many times Tony Cascarino went with the Barça right back) Alves should have tucked their respective penalties away. Being a defender is no excuse. Gerard Piqué and Pepe managed fine, while Sergio Ramos demonstrated not only composure and skill, but nerves of steel when it was his turn.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento has protected his star player, taking responsibility for the penalty taking order. Ronaldo was apparently asked to take the fifth and he had no problem with it. If you believe that, great. In that case, he was let down by his team mates rather than the other way around. On the other hand, it could be a load of bull honkey and Ronny was in charge of the order. In which case, he was unfortunate. If you’re misguided enough to believe that penalty shootouts are a lottery, you certainly can’t hold it against Ronaldo. And the fact is, we’ll never know whether or not the outcome would have been different had the Real Madrid forward gone first. It’s easy to criticise once you’ve the luxury of having your old friend hindsight in your armoury, but he only did exactly what match winner Cesc Fàbregas did. The Barcelona midfielder was allowed to take Spain’s fifth penalty (after centre half carthorse pair Piqué and Ramos remember) because he had “a funny feeling” about penalties. Speaking after La Roja’s dramatic shootout victory, Fàbregas solved the mystery of how Alves’ strike came back off the woodwork, while his own effort flew in off the post.

“They told me initially to take the second one but I said ‘no, give me the fifth’ as I had this premonition.

“When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball that we had to make history and it shouldn’t let me down,” Fàbregas revealed after netting the decisive penalty, sending Spain into the final of Euro 2012.

If only Ronaldo’s penalty plan had been as foolproof as that.