EPL

Ronaldo laughs off Atletico fan protests over speculated move

By Sports Desk July 29, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo has laughed off protests by Atletico Madrid supporters over a potential move to the club, as speculation continues to swirl over the Manchester United star's future.

The Portuguese sat out the Premier League club's pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia for family reasons, amid reports he is attempting to secure a departure from Old Trafford just one year into his homecoming. 

Rumours over a move to Atletico have continued to swirl, but a section of their fans have made it clear they are against a move for the former Real Madrid star.

Atletico supporters unfurled a banner stating CR7 NOT WELCOME at their recent pre-season friendly against Numancia.

Ronaldo took to social media to comment on their protests, simply posting a succession of crying emojis to a fan account that posted the image.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner - who is facing a first season without Champions League football since the 2002-03 campaign if he stays with United - also hit out at media coverage about his future.

In another comment beneath an Instagram account reporting on a meeting between agent Jorge Mendes and the United hierarchy - reportedly including Sir Alex Ferguson - the forward suggested such reports are false.

"Impossible not to talk about me [for] one day," Ronaldo wrote. "Otherwise the press makes no money. You know that if you don't lie, you can't get people's attention. Keep going that one day you [get] some news right."

Ronaldo scored 22 goals in all competitions against Atletico during his time with Madrid. Only against Getafe (23) and Sevilla (27) did he find the net more often. He also scored three hat-tricks versus Atletico and tormented them again with another treble for Juventus in the last 16 of the 2018-19 Champions League as the Bianconeri reversed a 2-0 first-leg deficit to progress.

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  • Martinez confirms Ronaldo set for landmark appearance at Euros Martinez confirms Ronaldo set for landmark appearance at Euros

    Roberto Martinez confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will start against Georgia in their final Euro 2024 group game to make a landmark appearance.

    The Portugal captain is set to become the first European player to make appear in 50 games at major tournaments in his next match, and a start against Georgia will take him to 28 caps at the Euros.

    The Selecao have already confirmed their place in the last 16 as Group F winners with a 3-0 victory over Turkiye last time out, after beating Czechia 2-1 in their opener.

    So, Martinez was expected to make changes to his starting line-up with one eye on the knockout stage, but the Spaniard was happy to confirm Ronaldo would not be one of them.

    "I can say that the captain will be in the starting team. It's important," said Martinez. "He only played one preparation match.

    "His season was very consistent, and he has played every game, has had a lot of minutes at his club. To continue with the competitive rhythm, it's not good to stop now and then reactivate in six days.

    "We prepared the game to win. I believe the integrity of the tournament is essential.

    "It is an important match because the result will show who will and will not be qualified. Georgia had a very interesting European Championship, could have beaten the Czech Republic in the last play of the match.

    "They were very competitive against Turkey. We need to maintain the same focus and win."

    Portugal were the victim of multiple pitch invaders against Turkiye as fans tried to get close to Ronaldo.

    While the 39-year-old took the time to take a photo with one young fan but appeared frustrated as the trend continued.

    Martinez added: "He's a very experienced player, he's been with the team for over 20 years.

    "He knows the kind of support fans provide, but not just Portugal fans, football fans. I hope there won't be any pitch invasions - this is dangerous and it's not good for football, it's not a part of the game that we want to see."

  • The Numbers Game: Georgia looking to cause an upset on Ronaldo's big day The Numbers Game: Georgia looking to cause an upset on Ronaldo's big day

    Georgia know that knockout football is still within their reach as they prepare for their toughest test so far at Euro 2024 against Portugal.

    Roberto Martinez's side secured top spot in Group F with a game to spare after following up a 2-1 win against Czechia with a commanding 3-0 victory over Turkiye.

    Meanwhile, Georgia missed the chance to claim a maiden victory at a major tournament as they drew 1-1 with Czechia, but they did set themselves up with a chance of getting out of the group.

    Here, we use Opta data to preview Wednesday's clash.

    What's expected?

    After their strong start to Euro 2024, Portugal are the favourites to make it three wins from three games, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 75.8% chance of getting the job done.

    While Georgia's spirited performances have earned them the plaudits, they are predicted just a 10.4% likelihood of an upset, and a 13.9% chance of taking a point.

    This will be just the second-ever meeting between the nations, with Portugal coming out on top with a 2-0 friendly win in May 2008.

    The Selecao look set to repeat that result, after putting a recent European Championships hoodoo behind them. Having won both of their group-stage games so far, Portugal have now won more than they had across the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (W1 D4 L1).

    However, only once before have Portugal won all three of their group games in the competition (2000).

    As for Georgia, they are chasing what would be a historic first major tournament win, having drawn and lost their opening two matches. Only Greece have got their first such victory against Portugal, beating them en route to lifting the trophy at Euro 2004.

    Georgia have proven tough to beat in the last year - since losing three in a row between June and September 2023, they have only lost two of their last nine games (W4 D3).

    Georgia aiming for a big finish

    Making their major tournament bow at Euro 2024, Georgia have caught the eye with their high-intensity approach to games, pushing both Turkiye and Czechia all the way in their first two fixtures.

    Georges Mikautadze etched his name into Georgia's history books after scoring their first goal at the Euros, before becoming the sixth player to net both of his nation's first two goals at the tournament, and the first since Andriy Shevchenko in 2012 for Ukraine.

    After a free-flowing attacking performance in their 3-1 defeat to Turkiye, which saw Georgia have 14 shots and hit the woodwork twice, they failed to recapture that same spark against Czechia.

    They did earn their first point, though, agonisingly missing out on that first victory as Saba Lobjanidze squandered a golden chance with the last kick of the game.

    Across the first two matchdays of Euro 2024, Georgia faced more shots (49), more shots on target (20) and had a higher expected goals against (xGA) figure (6.1) than any other side.

    Then again, Giorgi Mamardashvili made more saves (16) – 11 of which came against Czechia – and had a higher expected goals on target (xGoT) prevented figure (+3.05) than any other goalkeeper in the first two matchdays, conceding just four goals (excluding own goals) despite facing an xGoT of 7.05.

    It will be a much sterner test for the Valencia goalkeeper against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, but if he can maintain that level, he will give Georgia a chance.

    Ronaldo set to make more Euros history

    Playing at a record sixth Euros at 39 years old, Ronaldo had seen his place in the squad debated in the build-up to the tournament.

    He has started both matches in the competition so far though, and should he retain his place against Georgia, he will become the first European player in history to make 50 major tournament appearances (28 of those will have come at the Euros, while he has played 22 times at the World Cup).

    Questions continued to circulate after a frustrating outing for Ronaldo in their 2-1 victory against Czechia on MD1, as he failed to score from five shots worth 0.73 xG, including missing one big chance, as defined by Opta.

    However, he silenced some of those with another slice of history in their dominant win over Turkiye on Saturday, teeing up Fernandes to get his seventh assist at the European Championships - the most on record of any player in the competition's history.

    Despite being the tournament's all-time top scorer, Ronaldo is yet to hit the net so far, though the Selecao are the second-highest scorers at Euro 2024 with five goals. 

     

    Portugal have benefitted from an own goal in both of their games – only Spain in the 2020 edition have benefitted more at a single Euros (three), while no team has ever done so in three consecutive games at the finals before.

    Martinez will not be too worried about that though, after two commanding performances, as they look to stay perfect heading into the last 16.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Georgia – Georges Mikautadze

    Mikautadze, as things stand, is the joint-top scorer at Euro 2024, with two goals.

    With the chance to continue their run into the last 16, another goal from him could be the key to setting Georgia on their way.

    If he does score on Wednesday, he would be just the third player in history to net each of his side's first three goals in the competition, after Gerd Muller (Germany) and Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria). Not bad company to be keeping.

    Portugal – Bruno Fernandes

    The pre-match headlines are likely to be firmly focused on Ronaldo.

    But on the pitch, it could be Fernandes who sets the tone for Portugal, having been directly involved in 28 goals in his last 23 appearances for the national side in all competitions, scoring 15 and assisting 13.

    His strike against Turkiye was his first goal at the European Championships (in his sixth appearance), the second major tournament match he has scored in for Portugal, after his brace against Uruguay at the 2022 World Cup.

  • Scotland denied '100% penalty' against Hungary, says Clarke Scotland denied '100% penalty' against Hungary, says Clarke

    Scotland head coach Steve Clarke was adamant his side should have been awarded a penalty as their Euro 2024 campaign ended with a 1-0 defeat to Hungary in Stuttgart. 

    Kevin Csoboth scored the winning goal in the 10th minute of injury-time to put Scotland out of another major tournament in the group stages. 

    However, things could have been much different for Clarke's side.

    Stuart Armstrong looked to have skipped beyond Hungary's Willi Orban in the 80th minute, before the RB Leipzig defender grappled across the midfielder, with both tumbling inside the area. 

    Referee Facundo Tello waved away Scotland's appeals, and a subsequent check by VAR deemed the challenge not worthy of awarding a spot-kick. 

    “It was 100% a penalty," Clarke said. "Somebody, somewhere has to explain to me why that's not a penalty. It’s a one goal game, we get the penalty and it could have been a different night.

    “I've got other words, but I'm not going to use them. I don't understand how VAR can look at that and say it's not a penalty.

    “In a European competition, it may have been better to have a European referee but we had European VAR and maybe a referee didn't see the challenge clearly on the pitch, so what's the purpose of VAR if they are not going to come in on something like that. It was a penalty.”

    Having qualified for successive European Championships, this was Scotland’s 12th major tournament group stage, and in 50% of those they have failed to win a single match – at the 1954, 1958, 1986, and 1998 World Cups and EURO 2020 and 2024.

    “We gave everything, there’s nothing you can fault there. It was a very tough game against a good opponent," said Clarke. "A very close game that was always going to be decided by the first goal. You could tell that after half an hour.

    “Unfortunately for us when we opened up towards the end of the game to try and chase the winner, that we felt we needed to get to the next stage, we got caught on the counter.”

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