After the draw against Iceland, Cristiano Ronaldo raged “They played like a small team” and “They will do nothing in this tournament”. While the Seleccao maybe looking forward to their semifinals against Wales, it’s no secret that they have struggled against Croatia and Poland and it’s through a significant part of Lady Luck that they are here.
5 Matches, 1 Win, 0 in Extra time: Who’s playing like a small nation now Ronaldo?
Through these five matches, none of which have been won in normal time, they have played in exactly the same way that Ronaldo had predicted of the Nordic nation.
Renato Sanches: The Shining Light
The inclusion of young Renato Sanches was the cause of excitement for Journalists and Pundits alike. Having coming back of a breakthrough season with Benfica and having sealed a move to Bayern Munich, some had expected him to be a part of starting eleven. Fernando Santos however didn’t see the things the same way. His exploits, first against Croatia and then against Poland, have proved his manager wrong. In a team that labored through the first couple of matches, he has been outstanding.
Only Nani has been the other one to pull his weight. Though Ronaldo hit a brace against Hungary in their last group match and worked hard in the match against the Poles, it’s his profligacy in front of the net that has let him down. A superstar like him ought to have scored more but it’s the lesser known players who have bailed out Fernando Santos throughout this tournament. Against Wales led by the talismanic attacker and his club comrade Gareth Bale, Ronaldo would be itching to set the record straight.
A Real Madrid-esque journey to glory?
Though having been crowned champions of Europe and achieving their dream of “La Undecima”, few would argue against the notion that Real Madrid has the easiest of fixtures to navigate from. Before overcoming Atletico, they haven’t had faced any league winners on their way through quarterfinals and the semifinals. They played ugly and in the finals too, it was the penalty shootout, ‘A Lottery’ even acknowledged by Ronaldo himself that sealed their fate. However, they had one quality: The quality of knowing How to Win. It was not that the Rojiblancos thnselves lacked, but it was something that they knew more about. The same can be said of this Portugal side too. Judging by the way they have progressed, it seems unlikely they would be the one to lift the Euro Cup 2016. However, the trait of winning ugly exhibited by Santos’ wards has proved that they have a realistic chance of delivering Ronaldo the silverware he so badly craves. However, that doesn’t spare them the fact that they should have been playing better than they are playing right now. That counts for little if they manage their way into the finals.
Will it be CR7 or Bale for Ballon D’or?
Another personal motivation for Ronaldo against Wales to go one-up against his Real Madrid colleague. It’s an open secret that both of them don’t enjoy a very pleasant relationship. Ronaldo’s refusal to celebrate a Bale goal earlier in their La Liga campaign and his own admission that “You don’t need little kisses to have good working relationship” only confirmed what was visible to the outside world.Though both of them share the common passion of winning, both of them are united in their selfish interests too. Carlo Ancelotti had claimed in his new book how Bale had made a futile effort to call up his agent to speak to the Real Madrid president to move him into a more central role, disregarding the effect it had on the Italian’s ideas and plans for the whole squad.
Ronaldo’s incidents are many. However, it’s only a mark of his passion to be the Absolute Best in footballing world that drives him. And the same drives his semi-final opponent too. Both of them then, are also in knowledge that winning the continental showpiece would, to some extent, guarantee the biggest individual prize. Messi’s loss with Argentina at the Copa has given them a clear shot at the ultimate glory and there is a big chance it will be playing in the minds of both the players going into Semi-final clash.
While there maybe claims that other teams should have been where Portugal are given how they have played, one has to remember that the same was said for the Los Blancos at the Champions League finals.2016 is turning out to be an year of anti-climax, better teams being beaten for the cups. A sign of good times to come for Ronaldo?