Football

Ronaldo destined for defining Euro tournament

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Ronaldo's Portugal face Germany on 9 June (©GettyImages)
Ronaldo's Portugal face Germany on 9 June (©GettyImages).

Cristiano Ronaldo is coming off-the-back of the best year of a remarkable career.

The Real Madrid forward bagged an incredible 46 league goals in 38 appearances for Real Madrid, and 60 goals in total, but still the Portuguese star was still overshadowed by the exploits of a certain Lionel Messi.

Throughout his career Ronaldo has had to deal with such comparisons, and often has come out second best. But this year Ronaldo has the opportunity to outshine Messi, to tick the only box the Argentinian is yet to tick - to win an international trophy.

Critics eager to pick holes in the Barca star's game point out this glaring omission on his CV, and likewise Ronaldo has not always been able to reproduce his best form for Portugal.

But the former-United player is unquestionably his country's main man - the world-class threat crucial to any success for Paulo Bento's side.

Bento's team face a tough test against Euro 2008 finalists Germany in their opening group game, and German coach Joachim Low believes Ronaldo is impossible to defend.

"There is no sense in putting one player on Ronaldo all the time," said Low. "I would need three or four players to stop him. I do not want one-on-one situations against him."

Portugal, for all the talents they have produced, are yet to win an international tournament. Eusebio, Rui Costa, Luis Figo, and Cristiano Ronaldo have all traveled to competitions carrying the hopes of their nation, but each time have returned empty-handed.

Like Spain before their recent successes, great hope was invested in Portugal's so-called 'golden generation', but their best opportunity came and went on home soil in 2004. Ronaldo was part of that team left heartbroken after Greece completed the ultimate underdog story, beating the home favourites 1-0 in the final.

That year Ronaldo actually enjoyed one of his best goalscoring spells for the national side, notching 7 goals in 16 games as a spritely 19-year-old. But since then, international tournaments have held nothing but disappointment for the Madrid man.

The 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year scored just once at Euro 2008 as Portugal bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Similarly, at the World Cups in Germany and then South Africa, Ronaldo managed just a single goal, struggling for form as his side bowed out prematurely.

Like Messi and Argentina, Portugal rely heavily upon their star striker. Despite working best when cutting in off the flanks, a lack of options at international level often necessities Ronaldo playing the central striker role for his country.

Frustrated at a lack of help around him, the overriding memory of Ronaldo at the 2010 World Cup was the forward firing off hopeful shots from 35-yards, isolated up front and lacking support.

And his club-mate Pepe believes his team need to do more to support their talisman. "The responsibility is for everyone," said Pepe. "He's [Ronaldo] a human being with extraordinary abilities, who can decide the outcome of a match, but he's just one player in a team. He know how to approach these matches but he cant do everything on his own."

Unfortunately for Ronaldo his supporting cast with Portugal is slightly less impressive than the dressing room he shares with his Real Madrid teammates. As a result, it's inevitable that more of the burden falls upon him, which mean opponents have less to worry about, allowing them to focus more of their attentions on curtailing him.

But this summer Ronaldo has the opportunity not just to step out of Messi's shadow, but to surpass him altogether. If he manages to guide Portugal to their first international trophy, he will have achieved what Messi has failed to do.

It won't be easy, Portugal find themselves in the 'Group of Death' along with Holland, Germany and Denmark, but with Ronaldo in their team Portugal will always stand a chance.

This tournament could be a defining moment in Ronaldo's career. In the battle between Messi and Ronaldo for footballing bragging rights, an international trophy could be the trump card.

Topics:
Internationals
Football
Cristiano Ronaldo
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