Before the World Cup in Brazil had even begun, the fans and pundits had decided on their contenders and dark horses.
Most had expected Germany, Brazil and Argentina to advance to at least the semis which they have duly done. Spain's exit has been a shock but probably the biggest shock has been Portugal's (read Cristiano Ronaldo's) early demise at the tournament.
Most considered them to be the dark horses. They were expected by most to go far in the tournament. But then those were the Portuguese fans. There was a completely different school of thought which believed that Portugal was Cristiano Ronaldo and with him not in top health, they were bound to fail.They were right.
Group of Death
The writing was on the wall after the groups were announced; the Portuguese were in the "Group of Death" with Germany, USA and Ghana. Teams capable of dominating their opponents on the day. But Portugal were still reasonably confident of their chances of success.
And why not? They had the Ballon D'Or winner in their ranks who normally would have been capable of taking them forward, as he did in their playoff against a Sweden led by Zlatan Ibrahimovich.
Physically up to it?
But the strains of a long domestic season had their strains on the star No. 7, whom was ultimately injured and was not healthy enough to negotiate challenges from USA and Germany which saw them fall away.
It's not that Portugal lacked quality. They have players like Moutinho, Nani, Coentrao and Pepe who're able to trouble the best of teams. It's just that even the team itself now believes that they depend and thrive on Ronaldo and without him they are doomed to fail.
And the way they're playing, it might just be true. Ronaldo might just have had his last WC in his prime. Portuguese football needs to move over Ronaldo and find a new icon.
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