So Cristiano Ronaldo was in the usual position of getting hounded and criticized by the media for being too selfish; For not showing up in the big moments; For not playing at his best for his national team; For dividing the dressing room. Then came two goals that won the match for Portugal against the Netherlands, and the world went silent.
Not that a lot of what people say about Ronaldo isn’t true. He doesn’t seem to fit the ‘captain’ mold. But a lot of the decisions regarding whether he had a good game or a bad one depend on whether his shots went in or not. During the first two matches – the loss to Germany and the 3-2 win over Denmark, he couldn’t score from the most comfortable of opportunities. Against the Dutch, forsaking defending in a desperate effort to find a two goal win, it was much easier.
Because Portual played to their strength – counter attacking, with two of the fastest wingers in the world, and one of them, Ronaldo, happening to be one of the two best players in the world. The first goal was fantastic off the ball movement, making Joao Pereira look like a genius with his through ball. The second goal was a text-book counter attack while Van Marwijk left his players to defend with only three men against a very fast, very deadly Portuguese front three after Nelson Oliveira was introduced to the match.
It’s easy to dislike Ronaldo and keep disliking him even after a fantastic performance from him. The arrogant looks after the goals, the constant attempts of deceiving referees with pointing at hands and stopping play to yell at officials. It’ll never change. That’s who the man is, and whenever he does it, it gets 100 times more attention than anyone else. Another problem for him is being judged by the Messi standard, which always makes Ronaldo look bad.
Because everybody knows Ronaldo is this good, and even better. Hat tricks from him don’t surprise anyone. Incredible goals from 30 yards out don’t shock a soul. It’s when he does things that make him look more than just a scorer. When he seems to make a play for his team and not just for the sake of another goal, for himself.
Like it was for Real Madrid during their best stretch of the season – When Ronaldo isn’t only out looking to score, his teams play better. Because of the attention he gets on the field from two or three players at times. Because he’s a much better passer than sometime he gets credit for.
Next up in the quarterfinals? The Czech Republic. After a bad start and what looked to be a failure waiting to happen, Portugal seem to have the most comfortable road en route to the Euro 2012 Semi Finals, and another chance for Ronaldo to prove he’s one to play at his best when the pressure and the stakes are at their highest.