Saturday, 18 June 2016

CR7 Record Breaker and Record Faker

The Real Madrid man overtook Luis Figo's Portugal caps mark and could have become the first player to score at four Euros, instead he's contemplating one of his worst international nights


"Messi, Messi, Messi," the Austria fans chanted from inside the Parc des Princes. The subject? Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal captain has not endured many nights as frustrating as this one in his great career and the name of his great rival raining down from the stands might well have made it all the more difficult.

He hit the post from the penalty spot, had another goal ruled out for offside and missed the game's other clear opportunity. A day that began with Jorge Mendes describing his star client as the "best person in the world" ended with CR7 as CR0.
Portugal's passage to the knockout rounds  of Euro 2016 is still far from secure with only two points from two and Hungary to play on matchday three on Wednesday. To stand any chance of making it deep in the tournament, Fernando Santos's side need more from their captain.

The team around him is often judged as not being of the same standard but this was a night when the other 10 did pretty well only to see their efforts undone by Ronaldo's poor finishing. In the first half, he steered a left-footed drive from inside the box wide of the post. The Austria fans were right to taunt him about that one; Messi wouldn't have missed.
That only seemed to nurture Ronaldo's frustration. No other Portugal player, seemingly, was permitted to shoot any longer. In all he had 10 with three on target. Everything had to go through him. One blistering shot in the second half tested Robert Almer in the Austria goal. From the resulting corner, Ronaldo headed on target but was again denied.
Rarely has Ronaldo looked so desperate for a goal, as if hitting the net might all of a sudden excuse the ordinary play until that point. He even aimed a free kick at goal from roughly halfway into the Austria half. Only those of the highest self belief - or delusion - attempt such a thing.

When Raphael Guerreiro crossed in the 79th minute, it appeared the three-time Ballon d'Or winner would get his moment. He was instead hauled back by Martin Hinteregger and given the opportunity to get the monkey off his back with a penalty kick. It was the only way he was ever going to score on such a dismal night. Alas, he missed it. The ball cannoned back off the post and the Portugal fans were in disbelief. As they were shortly after when his admittedly fine header was correctly ruled offside.
This was a night Ronaldo was supposed to break records; he became Portugal's all-time caps record holder, overtaking Luis Figo. He was also due to score in a fourth European Championships and would have become the first Portuguese to do that too. Instead he's contemplating ones he'd rather not have. He's taken 36 free-kicks at major tournament finals and not scored one. He has now taken more shots than any other player at these finals and still not scored. His tally of 20 is also more than nine teams have managed in total.

Ronaldo appeared to be the solution to Portugal's long-standing centre forward problem. He scored plenty in tournament warm-up matches from that position and generally performed well from there in qualifiers. Now, crucially, the goals have dried up. This system is designed to get the best out of him and the system is holding up its end of the bargain.
Had it been any other player, Santos would have probably put him out of his misery and taken him off following the penalty miss. Even Ronaldo's ego has its limits and he will surely be feeling bruised.

As it stands, Portugal are standing in the shadow of Hungary, the only team to win a match in this group. And Ronaldo cannot look in the opposite ranks to apportion the blame. Austria are not a great side and gave more than 20 chances away. He cannot blame the service either as he got plenty of that all night long. Instead, as difficult as it might be, Ronaldo is going to have to look in the mirror and confront the reality. He has not been up to standard.
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