Overall Performance: Cristiano Ronaldo wants to be crowned the best player in the world, and with Lionel Messi's past struggles in big international games until recently, this is Ronaldo's chance to shine and prove he deserves to be crowned the best. However, he seems to linger and fade out into the darkness in games for Portugal more often than not. He's the heartbeat, and he needs to demand the ball. He didn't do that against Germany, as Portugal succumbed 1-0. That needs to change if Portugal is going to advance out of the group stages.
Germany scored goals in bunches in the qualifying stages for the European Championship in Ukraine and Poland and qualified easily. Portugal, on the other hand, struggled, and its superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, had an up-and-down campaign, but put it on when he had to in the playoff with Bosnia and Herzegovina, scoring two impressive goals.
The two countries paired off for their opening round game in Group B, the aptly named "Group of Death" that features four countries ranked in the top 10 of FIFA's rankings, with high expectations.
Germany's counter-attacking flair was supposed to be on display—it wasn't. And Ronaldo was suppose to be the showman who created and scored Portugal's chances, propelling its own counter-attacking brand of soccer. Instead, the two teams paired off in a midfield duel that saw more errant passes than chances on goal.
Ronaldo was the periphery of the game, hanging out on the edges waiting to receive the ball instead of taking charge and demanding the ball. Ronaldo barely, if at all, saw the ball in the first 15 minutes of the game. This was partly because Germany was stepping on the ball and just passing it around. It was also because Portugal couldn't find a way out of its half, unable to connect on more than a pass or two. Ronaldo spent much of the time standing around half close to the left sideline waiting for something to break his way.
Germany did a good job of leaving a defender, Jerome Boateng, on Ronaldo at all times, and not pressing its outside backs too high up the field. That doesn't mean Ronaldo should have sat there occupying a fullback who wasn't overlapping. Instead, he needed to demand the ball, get into space and show for the ball. He needed to run in behind the Germany backline and take a chance.
The first time Ronaldo got going was in the 18th minute when he finally got the ball in some space. The Real Madrid forward took on Boateng with multiple step-overs and put in a beautiful cross that hummed across the box, but it didn't find any of his teammates because they had mostly stayed behind the play.
Ronaldo's best chance of his own came in the 82nd minute when he finally found the ball in the attacking third with a bit of space. Cutting in from his right-wing and picking up the ball just outside the box, Ronaldo sent in a low, swerving and dipping shot onto Manuel Neuer's net. The shot dipped and swerved enough to put the German goalkeeper off and he had to push the shot wide for a corner kick.
With Portugal pressing late in the game, Ronaldo opened up the Germany defense for a chance that Nani should have finished and tied the game. In the 93rd minute, Ronaldo found the touchline again, getting around Boateng, and pulled the ball back to Nani in space, but the Manchester United winger found his chance blocked.
On the whole Ronaldo didn't grab the game and make it his own. Part of the problem was his team, Portugal didn't supply him with the ball or chances, and the midfield was sloppy in possession. Ronaldo had a clear chance at goal in the 64th minute, but Miguel Veloso delayed the pass in behind the Germany backline, which allowed Boateng to recover and dive in for the saving tackle. The chance for Ronaldo was a rarity, though, because he finally found himself looking for space instead of waiting for the ball or one of his teammates to turn it over. He needs to do more of that. He needs to demand the ball in those areas instead of standing still.
Germany also left Boateng, who is a better-than-average defender, to stay on Ronaldo and he did well to slow down a 60-plus goalscorer. Ronaldo needs to take to it to the Netherlands and Denmark if Portugal wants to get out of this group. he needs to be the leader instead of a star player standing on the edges in the shadows of the big games. He needs to want this. He needs to bring his game up.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!