Ronaldo poses biggest threat yet to Polish rearguard

Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:40pm EDT
 
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By John Geddie

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Poland have an impressive defensive record at Euro 2016 but standing in their way to a semi-final spot is arguably one of sport's greatest-ever athletes, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The monstrous Polish center back pairing of Michal Pazdan and Kamil Glik face their toughest challenge yet when they come up against Portugal in the last-eight clash in Marseille on Thursday, though their previous matches have not provided much by way of preparation for facing the Real Madrid star.

Describing 29-year-old Ronaldo as the "perfect athlete", U.S. lifestyle magazine Men's Health says he hits speeds of more than 32 kph, jumps nearly a meter in the air off one leg, runs an average of 16 km per match and hits more winners in the last 20 minutes than anyone else.

He is the only player to have scored a goal in four Euros going back to 2004 and, while he struggled to find his feet early in this year's tournament, there are signs that he is back to his sublime best.

He scored twice in Portugal's last group match against Hungary -- an audacious back heel and a towering header -- and has had a hand in two of his country's other three goals, most importantly the shot that set up Ricardo Quaresma to score the easiest of extra-time winners in their last-16 win over Croatia.

For their part, Poland are good shotstoppers.

They have conceded just three goals all year and only one in the Euros, an outrageous bicycle kick by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri in their round-of-16 tie which they eventually won on penalties. Only Germany still have a clean sheet in Euro 2016.

Poland's matches in France so far will have done little to prepare them for the pace, power and superhuman heading ability that Ronaldo possesses, however.   Continued...

 
Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Portugal Training - Centre National de Rugby, Marcoussis, France - 27/6/16 - Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo attends the training. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe