The other Ronaldo: Former prodigy Quaresma finally having his moment

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The duo emerged together at the start of the century with the Lisbon giants but while one went on to greatness the other stagnated on the international scene... until now

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Maybe Portugal are going to win Euro 2016 without actually winning a game. They have played five matches at this tournament and have yet to see off an opponent in 90 minutes. No matter, they are semi-finalists as they were in 2012.

The winning penalty in the shootout against Poland was scored not by Cristiano Ronaldo - as in the Champions League final - but by his one-time Sporting team-mate and fellow prodigy Ricardo Quaresma.

Despite their inability to beat teams to this point, Portugal's pedigree in this tournament is excellent. They have the power to go all the way, playing a strong if unattractive brand of knockout football.

Fernando Santos - the coach - relies on sturdy defending and a strong breakaway attack. When Ronaldo and Nani are not up to the job, he has one more ace in the pack. Cristiano and Quaresma were often compared when coming through together; if anything, Quaresma was initially destined for bigger things.

Their careers went in different directions. Ronaldo was held up as an example of what happens when you don't squander your talent. Moves to Manchester United and Real Madrid followed as did Champions Leagues and Ballons d'Or. Quaresma, for one reason or another, just couldn't get going.

His big move to Barcelona was a dud. He bombed at Inter and Chelsea too, only really shining on the domestic scene with Porto. He has gone the long way round - with the likes of Besiktas and Al Ahli of Dubai on his CV - but the duo is back together for Euro 2016.

Quaresma has hit the form of his life just at the right time - earning a place in Fernando Santos's squad for the qualifiers where he impressed and now for the tournament proper. His big game experience for the Selecao to this point has been decidedly patchy. He didn't go to Euro 2004 or the World Cup in 2006 - to huge public outcry. He scarcely featured at Euro 2008. He missed out on the 2010 World Cup and got no minutes in 2012. He was agonisingly close to making the World Cup for 2014 but ultimately was not trusted by Paulo Bento.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo went from bright young thing to superstar, from top scorer to record caps holder. Ronaldo has - for a decade - been the man Portugal look to. Fernando Santos made a brave call in taking Quaresma but it's paid off. It looks an odd fit - a coach who prides himself on defensive work above anything else - and the wild, untamed winger who has caused more than one manager to turn grey. But it works.

Although he failed to star in his one start against Austria, he has otherwise shone - and decisively. There was the goal he made for Ronaldo against Hungary. He was on hand to nod in the winner in the second round against Croatia. He was the man who strode forward to confidently dispatch the fifth penalty kick here against Poland.

Portugal fans reserve a particular affection for "the Mustang". They cheer his name loudly when it's announced on the loudspeaker. They applaud him warmly when he takes to the field. He thrills them with his feints, dribbles and trivelas. Finally, belatedly, Quaresma is having his moment.

Portugal's football might well be conservative but their counter threats are manifold. Again, this wasn't Ronaldo's night. He snatched at a late chance in normal time and missed his kick altogether. The game was his to win there and then. Nani, too, was subdued. The emerging talents of goalscorer Renato Sanches, maturing with every outing, give them something else to look forward to.

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This though was Quaresma's night. It might yet be Quaresma's tournament.

 

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