Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational brace sent Holland to a third consecutive defeat, as Portugal will face the Czech Republic in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
Going into the last match of Group B, any of the four teams could still qualify, including the Dutch after two consecutive defeats. Their record against Portugal was poor with just one win in the last 10 encounters, losing six and drawing four. Most notably, they clashed in an ill-tempered 2006 World Cup match that saw 16 yellow cards and four reds.
The Portuguese side was unchanged from the one that beat Denmark 3-2, but there was a Dutch revolution with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Rafael Van Der Vaart and Ron Vlaar replacing Mark Van Bommel, Ibrahim Afellay and Johnny Heitinga.
It was one of the new faces, Van Der Vaart, who broke the deadlock with a wonderful curler from outside the box that flew past the goalkeeper into the far bottom corner. It was a fantastic finish from the Tottenham player.
Portugal went so close to an equaliser on 15 minutes with Cristiano Ronaldo stepping inside Vlaar, but the daisy-cutter clipped the outside of the upright with Maarten Stekelenburg well beaten. Moments later a horrible misplaced pass in midfield sent Helder Postiga clear, whose angled drive was deflected inches wide for a corner.
Roma shot-stopper Stekelenburg acrobatically parried a Ronaldo header from point-blank range. However, the Lusitanians were pouring forward and equalised when Ronaldo sprung the offside trap from a Joao Pereira reverse pass and kept his cool to fire past the on-rushing Stek.
Ronaldo hit an absolute screamer from a good 30 metres that almost propelled Stekelenburg back into his own net. Genoa midfielder Miguel Veloso’s free kick skimmed the bar.
As things stood, with Denmark-Germany on 1-1 at half-time, Portugal and Germany would be going through to the quarter-finals.
Vlaar turned a free header over the bar after the restart and Postiga had the ball in the net, but was already flagged offside when redirecting a wayward Ronaldo effort.
Ronaldo went on the counter and rolled across for Fabio Coentrao, who stung Stekelenburg’s palms. It should really have been 2-1 to Portugal on 72 minutes as Ronaldo got to the by-line and pulled back for Nani, who totally unmarked had his finish somehow palmed off the line by Stekelenburg from point-blank range at the back post.
The goal was coming and Cristiano Ronaldo did it all himself this time round. He was again in acres of space on the counter-attack from Nani’s pass, took a touch to send Van Der Wiel to the ground and drilled low in at the near stick.
A Nelson Oliveira header was straight at the goalkeeper and at the other end Van Der Vaart’s fantastic curler smacked against the far post in a very similar chance to his opening goal.
Ronaldo threatened a hat-trick in the final minute with his solo effort cracking the base of the upright with Stekelenburg well beaten.
Portugal 2-1 Holland
Scorers: Van Der Vaart 11 (H), Ronaldo 28, 74 (P)
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Raul Meireles (Custodio 72), Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Nani (Rolando 87), Helder Postiga (Nelson Oliveira 64), Cristiano Ronaldo
Holland: Stekelenburg; Willems (Afellay 67), Mathijsen, Vlaar, Van Der Wiel; Van Der Vaart, Nigel De Jong; Robben, Van Persie, Sneijder; Huntelaar
Ref: Rizzoli (Ita)