KHARKIV, Ukraine: Cristiano Ronaldo answered his critics with the double that sent Portugal into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Sunday but the line coming from the dressing room and himself was it was thanks to team spirit that they had prevailed.
Ronaldo's double - his first goals of the tournament - saw the 2004 finalists beat the Dutch 2-1 and send them crashing out of the tournament two years after they reached the World Cup final.
The Portuguese will play Group A winners Czech Republic - who beat Portugal on their way to the Euro 1996 final - in Thursday's quarter-final.
Both Ronaldo and his colleagues, who boycotted speaking to the foreign press angered at what they see as unwarranted criticism of their captain and the squad, said it was their unity which had given them the strength to prevail since losing 1-0 to Germany in the opening game.
In that they set an example to the Dutch, who loaded with more individual talent did not help their cause by being split down the middle.
Coach Paulo Bento had given the players their lead in refusing to talk about his captain Ronaldo's performance preferring to reflect on how proud he was of the team effort.
“What is important, is not the player, but the team,” said Bento, who received an early birthday present as he turns 43 on Wednesday.
“I am very proud of what this team has done, to have achieved our goal is wonderful.”
Ronaldo, who dedicated his two goals to his son Cristiano who was celebrating his second birthday, had reacted angrily after the 3-2 win over Denmark last Wednesday when Danish fans had chanted the name of his nemesis in the Spanish league, Lionel Messi.
However, having answered his detractors with his two-goal performance - the first time he has ever claimed a double at a major tournament - he too did not want to talk about himself.
“The team was spectacular,” said the 27-year-old.
“We deserve this qualification because we believed in it right until the end and all the players deserve to be congratulated,” he told Portuguese television.
Defender Joao Pereira, whose superbly weighted pass had set up Ronaldo for his first goal, positively purred about the team's all round performance and team spirit.
“We showed that we are a totally united team,” he said.
“Despite what comes out in the press, we are all rowing in the same direction and that is clear from what happened on the pitch, where we surpassed ourselves, beating them after falling behind.”
Midfielder Miguel Veloso echoed his comaptriots comments.
“Our secret of our side was we know how to defend together, how to suffer together, and then we are both humble and unified which we plainly showed on the pitch.”