Cristiano Ronaldo created a slice of history in powering Portugal to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 on Sunday but faces a lonely day off after his supermodel girlfriend decided to remain in New York instead of jetting to Poland.
Ronaldo scored two goals as Portugal beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the Ukranian city of Kharkiv to guarantee itself second place in Group B and a last-eight showdown with the Czech Republic.
After Portugal's impressive recovery from losing to Germany in its opening game, coach Paulo Bento decided to reward his players with a day off to spend with their wives and girlfriends when they return to their Polish training base.
However, Ronaldo will be on his own after his leading lady Irina Shayk opted to stay in the United States rather than travel to the tournament.
"We will rest and regroup and the players will have some time to enjoy themselves," Bento said. "It is important after coming through a difficult group that they can have some normal time. We want everyone to share in our success, the players, the people close to them, the whole nation."
Shayk and Ronaldo are used to spending time apart because of his commitments as one of the world's finest soccer players and her own as one of the most sought-after models on the New York fashion scene.
She was spotted by paparazzi exercising and shopping in New York just hours before Ronaldo geared up for what was one of his most important matches for his national team. "When asked last week if he expected his girlfriend to join him during the event, Ronaldo simply replied "no."
Defeat would have eliminated Portugal from the competition and led to criticism aimed at Ronaldo, whose performances at major tournaments have often been called into question.
In the side's previous match against Denmark, rival fans taunted the 27-year-old by chanting the name of Lionel Messi, the Argentina and Barcelona superstar widely regarded as the only better player in the world.
Ronaldo though, responded in dynamic fashion and became the first Portugal player ever to score in five major tournaments, taking control after the Dutch took an early lead thanks to Rafael Van der Vaart's curling drive after 11 minutes.
Ronaldo's runs terrorized the Netherlands defense, the weak link in the armory of the World Cup runners-up, condemned by this result to bottom spot in Group B and an early trip home.
After 28 minutes Ronaldo ran onto a pass from Joao Pereira and slotted a low strike past Marten Stekelenburg for his first goal of these championships. He's missed several scoring opportunities in earlier games.
That would have been enough, as the Danes eventually lost 2-1 to Germany, ensuring Portugal's passage to the quarterfinals. But Ronaldo wasn't finished, and he put his finishing stamp on an evening that established Portugal as a genuine threat for the trophy. His struck the winner with 15 minutes left to secure victory and slid to his knees in celebration.
"Cristiano is a champion and that is what you saw tonight," said Portgual teammate Nani. "He is dangerous to anyone, and we are lucky to have him."
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