Cristiano Ronaldo is a world-class superstar and the probable owner of the "second-best player" award.
Thus, with good reason, Portugal rest their hopes upon him every time a major international tournament comes around. Unfortunately, it's been noticed that he rarely performs on this stage.
So how has he fared in Euro 2012? Captain of Portugal and leader of his team and nation, huge things were expected this summer off the back of an unbelievable domestic campaign.
In Portugal's opening game, Paulo Bento's team only deemed it necessary to play after going a goal down due to Mario Gomez's header.
Throughout the game, Ronaldo was neutralised by right-back Jerome Boateng. The German was only required to make one tackle and was successful whilst making two interceptions on the flank as well.
Boateng impressed due to his ability to keep his eyes on the ball, refusing to be sucked in by the step-overs Ronaldo was doing. He limited him to just a few crosses from the by-line and a couple of long-range shots.
The most telling statistic of the game was the number of passes Ronaldo received from his teammates—a lowly 28.
From a similar position on the pitch, Franck Ribery received 73 passes against Ukraine, with Samir Nasri getting 53 himself too. When Russia faced the Czech Republic, Andrey Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev received the ball 39 and 44 times respectively.
Statistics don't tell you everything, but these suggest Ronaldo plays in a position where he must be brought into play by his teammates in order to have an effect on the game—something his teammates weren't doing.
Denmark was a different game completely. For starters, Portugal started firing on all cylinders from the first whistle.
Ronaldo was slightly more involved during this game, receiving more passes and more goal-scoring opportunities than against Germany.
Unfortunately for Portugal, he was still far from effective. His runs were more incisive, his positioning better too, but he wasn't able to take two easy opportunities when they presented themselves.
Considering the sheer number of goals he's scored over the last two years, you'd have put your house on him to score the two one-on-ones he squandered.
Portugal's final qualifying game saw Ronaldo come full-circle. His performance was simply electric—bagging two goals and hitting the post twice as well.
He was most certainly the benefactor of Dutch right-back Gregory van der Wiel—something I alluded to in the pre-match buildup.
Van der Wiel frequently left Ron Vlaar one-on-one with Ronaldo in the first half, and the Dutch central defender has neither the positional awareness nor the mobility to deal with a player of this ilk.
Netherlands struggled throughout the game, as they possessed no players capable of dragging their team into dangerous positions. On the contrary, Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, Nani and Joao Moutinho were all too happy to take the ball and carry it.
The game became stretched late on, as Bert van Marwijk replaced left-back Jetro Willems with midfielder Ibrahim Afellay. Nani stretched one flank while Ronaldo stretched another, creating huge gaps for the latter to exploit for his second goal.
Ronaldo's average position is probably not what Bento wanted. His instruction is to stay wide, but starved of possession, Ronaldo has an inclination to drift inwards.
On the counterattack, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga and Nani formed a genuine front three and posed a massive threat against Denmark and Netherlands.
Coentrao stole the headlines yet again during the first two games and outperformed his compatriot, but Ronaldo did his damage in the third and most important game of the group stage.
Over the course of the three qualifying games, Ronaldo has gradually become more and more influential.
He grows each game and could have scored six against Netherlands. He was desperately unlucky not to get a hat trick.
Portugal are not just a counterattacking team, and Nani's positive form can only be good for Ronaldo. So long as the game is open, Ronaldo can prosper.
You'd put your house on him to get the better of Czech Republic's Theodor Gebre Selassie.
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