After a season that saw him score 60 goals in 55 games as Real Madrid romped their way to the La Liga title, Cristiano Ronaldo, even at the European Championship has been blighted with questions and tedious comparisons between himself and Lionel Messi. During Portugal’s group-stage game against Denmark he was taunted with chants of “Messi, Messi, Messi” from Danish supporters.
Portugal have always had an impressive record when it comes to the European Championship and since last failing to qualify in 1992, their record stands at: 1996 – quarter-finals, 2000 – semi-finals, 2004 – runners-up and 2008 – quarter-finals. Could 2012 be their year? Well, standing in their way is the tiki-taka machine that Spain who will be aiming for their second consecutive European Championship final as they bid to complete a historic treble of major tournaments.
Perhaps the best way to sum up tonight’s game comes for Richard Williams: “A simple way of looking at the match between Portugal and Spain on Wednesday night might be as a contest between the individual brilliance of one man and the collective genius of an entire squad.” And at Euro 2012, we have seen Ronaldo’s individual brilliance when it really matters (in games against Holland and Czech Republic).
In the face of criticism, particularly after his nation’s opening game defeat to Germany and again after their win against Denmark. Ronaldo has silenced those dissenting voices in his last two games; where he has scored three goals, to make him joined top-scorer, along with Germany’s Mario Gomez whose nations are still in the tournament. In four games, he has had 30 shots –more than the entire England squad (29) managed. Three goals at Euro 2012 has seen Ronaldo equal the amount of goals that he has scored in his last three international tournaments.
Gone are the criticisms of that past where, on a couple of occasions he was accused of not doing it on the big stage, on being anonymous when it really matters for both club (against Barcelona – has since scored in his last three El Clasico’s) and country, but the Portuguese has put all those to bed. Inevitably, Ronaldo is always going to be beaten with the individual stick rather than the team one. For the most part, certainly in this tournament, it has been him that has dragged Portugal to the semi-finals and if they are to reach the final, it is likely that he will be involved.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight and glare of the camera bulbs, Ronaldo could well be the show stealer tonight if Portugal beat Spain. If not, we could see a repeat of those tears from when Portugal were defeated by Greece in 2004, all over again.
Will it be tears or cheers for Portugal and Ronaldo?