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Almer matters: Ronaldo's Austrian nemesis

"The hero of the Parc des Princes" and "without doubt the best player on the pitch": Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer after he – and his goalpost – foiled Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday.

Robert Almer rejoices and Ronaldo despairs after the 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes
Robert Almer rejoices and Ronaldo despairs after the 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes ©Getty Images

If you are not scoring goals, then it helps not to concede them. And if you do not want to concede goals, then it helps to have Robert Almer as your No1 – at least if Saturday's evidence is anything to go by.

Almer produced six high-quality saves as Austria held Portugal to a 0-0 Group F draw at the Parc des Princes, denying Nani, Vieirinha and – on three separate occasions – Cristiano Ronaldo, who was aiming to become the first man to score at four UEFA EURO final tournaments.

As it was, the night belonged to Almer, with the 32-year-old Austria Wien custodian becoming the first Austrian to keep a clean sheet at a major finals since Friedrich Koncilia in a 2-0 win against Algeria at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain – a mere 12,417 days ago.

It might all have been so different. Stepping up to the penalty spot in the 79th minute, Ronaldo had the chance to make history. He struck the ball sweetly, only for it to bounce back off the post. "He wanted to hit the penalty perfectly accurately, but it was seemingly too accurate," Almer told reporters.

Alaba delight at Austria point

"If he had scored, it probably would have meant we'd be going home, so obviously it was good for us," said Austria boss Marcel Koller, although without Almer's flawless display Austria could just as easily have been out of the Group F running.

"I'm pleased I could give the team the support they needed," Almer told EURO2016.com. Such heroics – on what was the keeper's 30th appearance for his country – had seemed unlikely when he seriously injured a cruciate ligament in Austria Wien's 2-1 derby win over Rapid Wien in October and subsequently missed four months of action.

"It wasn't certain how match fit he would be," said Koller. "But as a goalkeeper he has enough quality and confidence. For the national side he has always put in good performances."

That he did so again on Saturday prompted the media back home to praise a new hero. "Without doubt the best player on the pitch," wrote Laola1, while Weltfussball described Almer as "outstanding" and "the hero of the Parc des Princes".

With his nation drunk on renewed hope of qualification for the round of 16 from a tight section – victory against Iceland on Wednesday would likely take Austria through – Almer offered a more realistic assessment before departing for the charter flight back to Avignon.

"It was very important to take a point against Portugal," Almer said. "It was always clear that we'd have to win one game, though, and we'll try and get that win against Iceland. We have to invest all our energy against them."

©Getty Images