Ronaldo and Pepe give young Turks a timeless lesson in class

June 22 – There are occasions that take your breath away. When reality blows away illusions. Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund isn’t a trick of the mind, it really is a seething mass of Turkish and Portuguese humanity cranking the noise levels up to 104 decibels and beyond…as loud as a rock concert!

For the 209th time, Cristiano Ronaldo pulled on the red and green of his beloved Portugal as his manager, Roberto Martinez believed that the 39-year-old could still do the business at the highest level.

He also expected the same with the 41-year-old defender, Pepe, as he went all in on experience. He would be richly rewarded with a confidence boosting 3-0 win.

On the other side of the coin, Turkey boss, Vincenzo Montella, dropped Mert Muldur and teenage sensation Arda Guler to the bench, which was especially surprising after the two had scored wonder goals against Georgia at this very stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo led from the front

As early as the first minute, Martinez would feel justified with his selection as first Ronaldo had a snapshot saved by Altay Bayindir while Pepe coolly dealt with a Turkish long ball. Experience over youth?

A pattern was developing. Portugal looked to build patiently while Turkey were content to wait for the counter-attacking opportunity.

In the 15th minute Ronaldo showed that he still has sparkling feet with a number of juicy step-overs before crossing to the far post where Rafael Leao headed wide. Five minutes later Pepe used all his years of craft and guile with a brilliant slide tackle to deny Orkun Kokcu. Any mistake on Pepe’s part would’ve meant a straight red card, and thanks to his intervention, Portugal went up the Turkish end and scored.

Pepe delivered a man-of -the-match performance, aged 41

Roberto Martinez had obviously worked with his team on using the full width of the pitch as both Leao on the right and Bernardo Silva on the left were hugging the touchline.

As the ball was fed to Leao, he attacked the box drew in defenders and there was Silva ghosting in from the right to smash the ball home.

Six minutes later a mistake as ‘big as a house’ as the Italians like to say doubled Portugal’s lead.

A pass to Ronaldo went astray and as Cristiano was about to sulk, Samet Akaydin played a blind pass to his goalkeeper, Altyay Bayinder, who wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Despite the best efforts of Zeki Celik, the ball just about dribbled over the line before being hacked away. Goal technology confirmed the goal.

As Turkey poured forward looking to get back into the game, Pepe again showed his undoubted class making yet another brilliant interception. He was playing chess, the young Turkish side, checkers.

Diogo Costa saves from Muhammed Kerem Akturkoglu 

The only blot on an excellent half was the performance of the German referee, Felix Zwayer who dished out five yellow cards despite there not being a bad tackle made.

With forty-five minutes left to get out of jail, Montella, decided not to make any changes while Martinez had the luxury of bringing on Ruben Nevez and Pedro Neto, two highly experienced operators.

With the two-goal cushion, Portugal could adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach which paid off handsomely. In the 55th minute the entire Turkish backline seemingly fell asleep allowing Ronaldo to break their high line.

With the opportunity to score his 131st international goal he incredibly and unselfishly laid it on a plate to Bruno Fernandez who couldn’t miss from four yards out. Three-nil and the game as a contest effectively over.

All that was left for Turkey was to witness a little imp wearing a national team shirt run on to the pitch and take a selfie with an obliging Ronaldo. As security converged, the youngster showed quicker feet than the entire Turkish front line to evade capture while receiving a rapturous ovation from his compatriots behind the goal.

As the last quarter of the matched ebbed away, Pepe decided to put a cherry on top of his masterclass in defending, anticipating challenges, winning headers, and basking in the adulation of the massed ranks of Portuguese fans behind the goal he was defending.

The standing ovation he received on being substituted in the 82nd minute was richly deserved for a man-of-the-match performance. Not bad for a forty-something who was supposedly past it!

With the final whistle, Portugal had safely booked their passage to the knockout stage with a game to spare. They look like the real deal and will be a handful to anyone who meets up with them in a one-off contest. Along with experience, they have skill, organisation and in Roberto Martinez, a manager who has had success at the tail end of tournaments with Belgium.

As for Turkey, questions will surely be asked of Montella, as his decision to change a winning team backfired spectacularly. They’ll have it all to do when they play the Czech Republic in Hamburg next Wednesday.

Contact the writer of this story, Nick Webster, at moc.l1721414666labto1721414666ofdlr1721414666owedi1721414666sni@o1721414666fni1721414666