After over 600 matches for club & country, Cristiano Ronaldo managed to put up what is probably the most ineffective performance of his career, as Portugal failed to beat Israel in a World Cup qualifying match for the second straight time, and Ronaldo himself couldn’t even get to take one shot at goal.
The complete freedom Paulo Bento gives his star can be damaging to his team, and it’s no wonder that he isn’t even close most of the time to his ability with Real Madrid. It does have something to do with the quality of players he has around him, but there’s still enough for Portugal to work with against a weak side like Israel.
Portugal were the better and slightly more dangerous side in the 1-1 draw, that didn’t really change anything, ending any mathematical chance for Israel to disturb Portugal at second place, but it was the second time in this campaign the Portuguese side drew with Israel, and is a big reason of why they’ll finish second behind Russia, having to go through a two-leg playoff to qualify.
Ronaldo scoring only 4 goals in the qualifying stages is no surprise, especially when taking into consideration his attitude against a team like Israel. While there were a couple of instances when he was wide open and ignored by his teammates, this had to be one of the least inspirational performances from the second best player in the world, barely making an effort to even run or do something that’s more than walk between the Israeli defensive lines and raise his arms to get the ball.
Ronaldo is at his best when he plays on the left side, but it seems that his standing on the national team gives him the chance to do whatever he wants to on the pitch, making Portugal a much inferior version of what they can be. Instead of playing on the wings through Nani, whose career keeps slipping away from him, and Ronaldo, who prefers spending his time as an attacking midfielder/supporting striker without any tactical responsibilities, Portugal just play slowly, predictably and eventually ineffectively.
Against Israel the worst part was his attitude and lack of effort. He hardly made any off the ball movement to give himself some space and get the ball, and when he did have possession, he was slow to make decisions, usually preferring lateral movement than actually attacking the goal.
Ronaldo usually saves his best for Real Madrid in any case, being unable to act and play like a diva on a club that demands a bit more from him than simply being a star. At Portugal, he just needs to be there, and unfortunately, it isn’t really enough, even against some of the worst teams in Europe.