Santos backs misfiring Ronaldo for Hungary Euro 2016 clash

Lyon (AFP) – Portugal coach Fernando Santos is backing misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo to break his Euro 2016 duck by netting against Hungary on Wednesday to help fire his side into the last 16.

Ronaldo is still waiting for his opening goal in France to become the first person to score at four consecutive European Championship finals.

The 31-year-old is the holder of numerous goal-scoring records, but he has yet to hit the net at Euro 2016, despite 20 chances so far.

Ronaldo set a new Portuguese record with his 128th international cap in Saturday’s goalless draw with Austria – a milestone overshadowed by his penalty miss.

He crashed a 79th-minute spot-kick against the post in Paris having also failed to score in the 1-1 draw with Iceland last Tuesday.

The star that fans either love or hate won few Icelandic friends by slamming their team’s “small mentality” after the draw.

It has been a frustrating tournament for Ronaldo and his Portugal side has failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as Group F favourites.

They lie only third in the table behind Iceland and Hungary, who they must beat at the Stade de Lyon to be sure of reaching the last 16.

“Ronaldo is a player who scores a lot of goals and I’m sure he will score in the next game against Hungary,” said Santos.

“Cristiano will keep on taking our free kicks and penalties.

“We love him, the whole of Portugal loves him.

“He’ll will give his best to produce a good performance.”

– Ugly vs parsimonious –

Portugal had 23 shots on the Austria goal — hitting the woodwork twice — and Santos expects his side to find the net and win ‘ugly’ if need be.

“It was the first time we failed to score during my reign,” said Santos.

“We created so many chances, we didn’t score, but I think we will next time out.

“We’re sad but we have things in our own hands.

“It doesn’t matter if we play better or ugly football.”

Hungary’s defence is not known for its generosity.

Since their 8-1 thrashing by the Netherlands in October 2013 — their record defeat — Hungary have conceded just 20 goals in 24 games.

Their 2-0 win over Austria and 1-1 draw with Iceland means they face Portugal top of Group F and are guaranteed to make the last 16.

“Who would have thought that we’d be top of the group with four points and that Portugal would need to win to qualify?” said Hungary’s German coach Bernd Storck.

“We have nothing to lose, Portugal have to win.

“This is a big surprise for everyone and I can’t compliment my team enough.”

Bruno Alves says Portugal must back themselves to beat Hungary.

“It’s up to us to break them down. We need to believe and trust in ourselves that we are able to beat them,” said the Portugal defender. 

Portugal have won all five competitive games against Hungary with their two most recent victories in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Off the field, the Hungarians need to watch their step for the rest of their Euro 2016 campaign.

UEFA slapped the Hungarian FA with a 65,000-euro ($73,000) fine on Tuesday after crowd trouble in the draw with Iceland.

In Marseille, Hungarian fans clashed with stewards in the Stade Velodrome and set off flares.

Their captain, Balazs Dzsudzsak, personally appealed for calm during the Marseille match.

He wants to see the same passion against Portugal in Lyon, just not the trouble.

“I ask that everyone continues to support us, but in a way which does not give reason for any possible punishment,” said the Bursaspor winger.

“Only the events on the field will determine how we finish the European Championship.”

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