On Wednesday afternoon, defending Euro and World Cup champions Spain got through to the final after winning a penalty shootout against Portugal. Their triumph was overshadowed, though, when Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo failed to take a penalty shot during the shootout.
Both Ronaldo and Portuguese manager Paulo Bento have been lambasted for the oversight. The criticism has been deserved, but it is not the calamitous mistake that it is being portrayed as.
To be sure, Ronaldo should have taken a penalty, if only to prevent these kinds of remarks. And Graham MacAree at SB Nation published a study today in which he analyzed the optimal order for penalty takers and concluded that for a team in Portugal’s situation, Ronaldo should have taken the fourth penalty.
But all the criticism is overblown.
Ronaldo did not get to take a penalty because Portugal did not get to the fifth kick, not because he didn’t want to. If Ronaldo had taken any of the first four penalties, Portugal still would have had to find someone to take the fifth one. Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves both missed penalties, which still would have allowed Spain to win.
The bigger criticism should probably be for the mind games that Portugal played on the third penalty, when Nani came in to replace Alves. Whether or not that had any effect on the missed penalty, we will never know.
Even if Ronaldo had made a penalty, Spain still would have won 4-3. Criticism of Bento’s strategy is fair, but to claim that it affected the outcome is ridiculous.