Ronaldo leads the way in Portugal procession


One team came seeking qualification and the other to enhance their reputation.

In the end, only one achieved their aim, Portugal easing through to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup while New Zealand's wait for a win at this tournament stretched to a 12th match.

Perhaps it's harsh to be too critical of an All Whites team that impressed with their grit and determination in their first two matches, hard-fought defeats to hosts Russia and Mexico.

A meeting with the European champions was a bridge too far, however, the gulf in class too great to be overcome by fight and passion alone.

Plus, neither Russia nor Mexico have Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks.

There were widespread suggestions the Real Madrid star would be rested by coach Fernando Santos but he retained his place and was a constant menace to New Zealand's overworked defence.

After 33 minutes of incessant pressure, New Zealand finally buckled, a combination of Tommy Smith and Thomas Doyle dragging down Danilo at a corner to concede a penalty.

Ronaldo duly converted with ease to register his 75th goal for his country.

Four minutes later and it was 2-0, Ricardo Quaresma releasing left-back Eliseu down the left with a clever flick and his cross was turned in by Bernardo Silva.

Silva hurt his right ankle in the process and was replaced at the break but it did little to quell Portugal's dominance.

New Zealand at least came close through captain Chris Wood but their threat was akin to a water pistol when compared to Portugal's heavy artillery with the All Whites' Stefan Marinovic standing between his team and a real pasting.

The Unterhaching goalkeeper kept out efforts from Andre Silva and Nani, shortly after his introduction for Ronaldo, but there was little he could do when Andre Silva burst through with 10 minutes to go to fire high into the net.

Nani added the gloss in injury time.

New Zealand's next competitive game will be in more familiar surroundings against an opponent they ought to beat - the Solomon Islands in a two-legged Oceania final as part of World Cup qualifying.

If they go through, they will then face the fifth-placed team in the CONMEBOL confederation, which is currently Argentina and a certain Lionel Messi, for a place back in Russia in 12 months' time.

In that respect, this game and this tournament has proved a valuable exercise even if Anthony Hudson's men looked out of their depth in St Petersburg on Saturday.

As for Portugal, their quest for a second trophy in two years continues with a semi-final on Wednesday.