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Euro 2012: Portugal knock off Netherlands, advance to quarterfinals

6:33 AM, Jun 18, 2012   |    comments
Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his second goal in the Euro 2012 football championships match Portugal vs. Netherlands on June 17, 2012 at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv. -- Photo Courtesy: Sergei Supinsky, Getty Images
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(AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo finally found the form he was lacking at the European Championship, scoring twice Sunday to give Portugal a 2-1 win vs. the Netherlands and a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Real Madrid forward failed to sparkle in Portugal's two previous matches, but he was devastating against the Dutch. He produced an equalizer with his first goal of the tournament in the 28th minute and scored the winner in the 74th.

"Once again, we showed how united we are as a team," Portugal midfielder Miguel Veloso said. "It wasn't easy to start with a defeat. The secret was our defending, our humility."

Needing a win to have a chance at staying in the tournament, the disappointing Dutch fielded an impressive attacking lineup featuring Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie up front, but it wasn't enough to keep them at Euro 2012.

The Dutch lost in the World Cup final to Spain two years ago and, with stars such as van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, had anticipated a strong run at Euro 2012.

Instead, it will be Portugal in the quarterfinals facing the Czech Republic on Thursday in Warsaw.

Rafael van der Vaart had given the Netherlands the lead in the 11th minute at the Metalist Stadium, but Portugal then took control of the match.

And it was Ronaldo who stole the show.

Portugal cranked up the pressure after falling behind, with Ronaldo probing the Dutch back line and equalizing from Joao Pereira's pass. It was the kind of chance he took so often at Real Madrid last season, when he scored 60 goals for his club, but wasted in Portugal's opening matches.

Portugal opened Euro 2012 with a 1-0 loss to Germany but rebounded to beat Denmark 3-2. The Portuguese went into the match against the Netherlands with an unchanged team from those encounters.

But the Dutch sharpened their attack. After losing their first two games to Denmark and Germany when they started with a lone striker, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk added Huntelaar alongside van Persie, the leading scorers in the Bundesliga and Premier League, respectively.

Huntelaar was a spectator for much of the game, while Sneijder was stuck on the left wing in an unexpected tactical decision by van Marwijk.

The Netherlands has beaten Portugal once in their past 10 meetings, in 1991.

The Associated Press

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