A picture can say a thousand words, and the one of Cristiano Ronaldo during his national side’s opening group game pretty much said it all.
The Ballon d’Or winner had just seen his national side thrashed by Germany, lose Pepe to suspension and both Hugo Almeida and Fabio Coentrao to injury. Things are not going well for Cristiano in what should be the best season of his life.
Not only has he finally beaten Messi to the World Player of the Year accolade, but he has also managed to win La Decima – the tenth Champions League title at Real Madrid and the Spanish Copa yet again.
That now means that he can boast of having won all there is to win in England and all there is to win in Spain – arguably the two best leagues in the world.
Sadly for Ronaldo, he will probably never be able to boast of having won the biggest competition of all, the World Cup – or probably even the Euros after Portugal came oh so close in 2004 against Greece but fell at the final hurdle and have stalled at each opportunity since then. Hell, he may as well be English for all the chance he has. Or as his teammate Gareth Bale will tell him, Welsh.
There is nothing Ronaldo covets more than a trophy with his national team for several reasons. He has won everything else in terms of the domestic game, he has won every personal accolade and over the last two seasons, has been in the form of his life.
Literally the only thing left to do is actually excel on the international stage.
The bitter irony will not be lost on Ronaldo that the main reason he beat Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or earlier this year was because of his performance when dragging Portugal to Brazil almost all by himself– and scoring an incredible three goals, even getting praise from Zaltan Ibrahimovic himself.
He was magnificent and the world saw it.
The fact that should Messi win a World Cup with Argentina, people will not remember the fact that Messi was surrounded by a team rich with world class players – and a forward line blessed by God – they will remember the fact that Messi won it all, and Ronaldo came so close, and that is something that has to weigh heavily on his mind.
Messi will be hailed as the greatest player to ever have graced the game whilst Ronaldo will find himself back in that all too familiar position, second best.
It does not matter that Messi oh so often fails to shine for Argentina. Yes, he scored a nice goal in their opening game against debutants Bosnia, his second in three World Cups in case anyone wondered, but can you ever think of an occasion where Messi has played in the Argentine shirt and carried the whole side on his back a la Ronaldo against Sweden? That would be a resounding no.
Ronaldo not only has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders but he is the only player who can deliver them.
He is not just a talisman, he is Portugal, and no matter how good he can be, it is mightily difficult to drag a team not only out of a group, but out of the group of death (which they are in yet again) when the goalkeeper is suspect, the defence cannot do their job and are half missing through both injury and suspension, the midfield offers little resistance or creativity, you are flanked by Nani on the opposite wing and you have the choice between two forwards who actually make Fernando Torres look positively stellar on the other.
Ronaldo cannot have a bad game. He cannot even be a tad below par because there is no one else to help him, let alone carry him for a game.
Even the player himself will tell you he was below par (and not fully match fit) against Germany, but in the next two games against the USA and Ghana there will be no room for that.
Ronaldo will have perform not only at 100% but a bit more than that if he wants to do the impossible once again and get Portugal into the second round.
That in itself would show how truly special he is, whether he gets a shiny trophy for it or not.
Can one man alone get a national side into the knockout stages of the World Cup? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.