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Ashley Cole's Masterclass Against Portugal At Euro 2004 Shows He Dealt With Cristiano Ronaldo Like Nobody Else

Jack Kenmare

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Ashley Cole's Masterclass Against Portugal At Euro 2004 Shows He Dealt With Cristiano Ronaldo Like Nobody Else

Cristiano Ronaldo has come up against some of the world's best defenders during spells in England, Spain and Italy but during an illustrious 19-year career, one man stands out as the toughest.

Speaking to Coach Magazine back in 2016, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner named former Arsenal and Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole as the most difficult he has ever faced.

"Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe," Ronaldo said.

"He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game."

Image credit: PA
Image credit: PA

Apart from a memorable first game against Cole in 2013, when he famously dropped the Arsenal defender on his backside with a piece of trickery, Ronaldo rarely got the better of the left-back playing for Manchester United.

Image credit: PA
Image credit: PA

Even when the pair met on international duty, the former England international was dominant against the ever-improving Portuguese winger. Take his quarter-final masterclass at Euro 2004, for example.

Sven Goran Eriksson's side might have been knocked out on penalties after a 2-2 draw but the performance of Cole was a stand-out in an otherwise disappointing campaign for The Three Lions.

He completely nullified the threat of a young Ronaldo, who was already regarded as one of the best talents in world football at the time, containing his flicks and tricks throughout 120 minutes. Just check out his performance below.

In terms of his performances against Ronaldo, the former Chelsea full-back's defensive masterclass against Ronaldo in 2006, when he claimed that he had him 'in my pocket' throughout, is perhaps his best.

Every twist and turn Ronaldo tried, Cole matched with a firm tackle and it flustered his opponent. Cameras even picked up on Cole making a gesture to his opponent, while saying: "You're in my pocket!"

The left-back told Chelsea TV in 2020: "I was so focused on that game. Even in the changing room I just felt different going into this game.

"My focus and concentration - mentally I was on it. I came to show him the line a lot because I kind of fancied my chances up against him with my pace.

"And a little bit of mentality actually, I think I got in his head a few times. He always wanted that extra trick.

"I gave him a strong tackle, maybe it was a foul or not, I don't know. And I felt at that time he didn't want it no more.

"He's kind of put his hand up and said, 'I wanna go off.' So I think it was a good time to say I had him in my pocket."

Image credit: PA
Image credit: PA

Ronaldo was eventually replaced in the 86th minute by Darren Fletcher.

"I had so much respect for him," Cole continued. "It was always a tough battle against not just Manchester United but against him.

"And to see what he's gone on to do is testament to how good he actually was.

"This is just one of my good moments against him and I would probably say I came out on top on this occasion."

Topics: Football, England, Portugal, Euros, Ashley Cole, Cristiano Ronaldo

Jack Kenmare
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