There's nothing like a hat-trick to send your country through to the 2014 World Cup. As such, it was just another day in the life of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The star winger scored three goals on Tuesday night to nullify Zlatan Ibrahimovic's brace and give Portugal a 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden in the UEFA World Cup playoff.
See you at the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/UbpT3yHBTU— B/R Football (@br_football) November 19, 2013
It was one of the best one-man displays you'll ever see on a football pitch. Ronaldo's teammates weren't terrible; rather, he was head-and-shoulders better than anybody else on the pitch not named Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Portugal ripped Sweden apart on the counter, and Ronaldo was the biggest reason why. As Zonal Marking's Michael Cox pointed out, his movement in the attacking half was fantastic.
GOAL! Ronaldo's movement has been absolutely superb tonight— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) November 19, 2013
In the first half, Ronaldo was fairly quiet. He had a shot saved by Andreas Isaksson and a great cross into the box was wasted by Hugo Almeida.
It wasn't until the second half that he really made his presence felt.
Erik Hamren decided to let the game open up more and had Sweden go on the attack as they looked to erase Portugal's one-goal aggregate advantage. While that led to more scoring chances, what it actually did was allow Portugal more opportunities to hit on the counter and give Ronaldo space to get free in the Swedish half.
All three of his goals were essentially carbon copies of one another.
On the first one, Joao Moutinho unleashed a great through ball that hit Ronaldo in stride, and he slotted it home across goal.
Then came the second, where it was Almeida who knocked it up ahead to Ronaldo. He hammered it home with his left foot.
Once again it was Moutinho who, on the third goal, delivered a perfect ball up. Ronaldo had a little bit more to do on this one, as he first got Isaksson to dive and take himself out of the play. Although the Madrid star had an open goal, his momentum was going away from goal, and the Swedish defense was beginning to catch up.
Those three goals meant Ronaldo has equaled Pauleta as Portugal's leading goalscorer, per OptaJean.
47 - Cristiano Ronaldo has joined the best scorer of Portugal Pedro Miguel Pauleta after his hat trick against Sweden (47 goals). Record.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) November 19, 2013
Following that match, Piers Morgan surely isn't the only person wondering if Ronaldo has supplanted Lionel Messi as the world's best player.
I thought Messi edged @Cristiano until this year. But I don't think any footballer has ever surpassed the levels Ronaldo is now reaching.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) November 19, 2013
After Tuesday night, it would be hard to argue that he hasn't.
Ronaldo did everything he could in order to send Portugal through. He acted as the facilitator for his team's attack, and more importantly, finished his chances. He timed his runs perfectly. Few players would have been able to make the instinctual runs that Ronaldo made.
In addition, his touches on the ball completely took the defenders out of the play. You've seen many times where an attacking player takes a great pass and ruins it with a poor touch. That wasn't the case on any of Ronaldo's goals.
Even Ibrahimovic applauded Ronaldo's effort.
That moment when Zlatan applauded Cristiano for his goal. pic.twitter.com/ADWBc9UPp6— Ped (@ChurchOfFutbol) November 19, 2013
It's after a performance like this that you wonder if Portugal can win the World Cup. Sure they're over-reliant on Ronaldo at times, but when he's scoring a hat-trick and bossing the game, who's going to complain?