The pressure has been on Cristiano Ronaldo long before a ball was kicked at Euro 2012 but now the tournament is in full flow that burden has got heavier, and Ronaldo has begun to crack.
Ronaldo had a woeful game when Portugal played Denmark squandering two gilt-edged one-on-one chances — the second of which was not even close to ending up in the net — and he looked frustrated and tormented throughout. He appeared exasperated with his team-mates, in particular Hélder Postiga, who scored Portugal’s second goal, for not passing him the ball and even picked up a late yellow card for a needless foul when he had no chance of winning the ball.
The matter wasn’t helped by Denmark fans chanting Messi’s name whenever Ronaldo was on the ball.
Although Ronaldo has hit back with a dig at his Barcelona enemy, but made a fool of himself in the process. When asked about the Messi chants, Ronaldo said: “You know where he was at this time [last year]? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country. I think that’s worse, no?”
As well as not getting his facts right – Argentina reached the quarter-finals of the competition before losing to the eventual winners, Uruguay – Ronaldo’s response will be interpreted by many as evidence of his annoyance with Messi’s status as the world’s best footballer. Although Ronaldo scored 60 goals for Real Madrid last season en route to winning La Liga, Messi eclipsed him on an individual basis, scoring 73 goals for Barcelona, including 50 in the league.
Ronaldo has become a bit of diva, pouting when his free-kick when sailing over the bar and blaming the pitch when a shot went yards wide. He had another poor game against Germany which resulted in him stropping off the pitch at the end of the game.
Now Portugal fans have turned on their captain with newspapers in the country claiming that ‘Portugal can win without Ronaldo’ and that the Selecção beat Denmark ‘despite Ronaldo’s lack of inspiration’.
One fan even went as far as saying: “Ronaldo need s psychologist, someone needs to bring his anxiety under control.”
The main concern for Portugal supporters is that Ronaldo continues to look a shadow of the player that is so prolific for Real Madrid. He has made 21 appearances for Portugal in European Championship and World Cup finals and scored five goals.
Paulo Bento, the Portugal coach, defended his captain after the Denmark win, which keeps alive their hopes of progressing to the knock-out stage. “That’s not my impression [that Ronaldo is struggling to handle the pressure],” Bento said. “He has the same pressure as all the players that want to contribute to the game. He was in some difficult situations but, from our point of view, he has played two very good games and I am very certain that not a single player in our squad might be unsatisfied [with him].
“He is a player of enormous ability who wasn’t efficient in a couple of situations he found himself in. He’s not under pressure from us, he’s here to help us resolve our problems.”
“I think all of us are happy now. I think there will be a great responsibility for all of us because there will be a decisive game in a few days.”
Team-mate Pepe waas also quick to defend Ronaldo after the Denmark match. “Cristiano, like I have said many times, is one of the best players in the world,” he said. “We are all colleagues and a friend to help him. He has a great responsibility for the team and for Portugal. He couldn’t score today but he has done this on other occasions. He helped the team and showed how professional he is and he will always do his best to bring about the win.”
Despite not having a great record in international tournaments, scoring just five goals in four major competitions, Ronaldo is still a major star at international needing only one more goal to move ahead of Luis Figo into outright third in Portugal’s all-time goalscoring list.
And Ronaldo has revealed he would accept not scoring a goal for the rest of Euro 2012, providing Portugal win the tournament.
“If I don’t score a single goal and Portugal win the Euro I’ll take that right now,” Ronaldo said after the match.
“Yes, maybe I demonstrated I was angry at myself [after missing chances]. I could have done better with the chances I had, but the important thing is that we are still in the race. Now we have to win our next match.”
- Premier League Matchday 35 Predictions
- What it’s like supporting a Non-League club
- How Jose Mourinho’s arrival could see Roma’s new owners realise their ambitions
- Arsenal’s future on the line on Thursday
- A History of Fan Protests: From Liverpool to Barcelona
- UK sport backs social media boycott, but not everyone reads the memo
- We need to be loud not silent to end social media abuse
- The Big Six is dead – Long live the Big Five
- Match-fixing: When 7 Manchester United and Liverpool players were handed lifetime bans
- La Liga: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in tight, must-watch title race