Time for Portugal to deliver for Ronaldo and Ronaldo to deliver for Portugal in World Cup

Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo winner enters the 2014 World Cup both responsible for Portugal's place in the tournament and counted on to have the kind of singularly dominant run that can bring them to new heights.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still searching for the kind of transcendant performance in a major tournament that Eusebio displayed at the 1966 World Cup for Portugal. Armando Franca / AP
Cristiano Ronaldo is still searching for the kind of transcendant performance in a major tournament that Eusebio displayed at the 1966 World Cup for Portugal. Armando Franca / AP

Portugal owe their place at the World Cup finals to the genius of their captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid man dragged his country through a fiercely contested two-legged play-off against Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in November. Portugal won 4-2 and the two superstars scored all of their sides’ goals.

A devastating array of finishing in a hat-trick in the second leg in Stockholm played a big part in the 29-year-old Ronaldo finally getting a second Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player in 2013, five years after he won the award for the first time.

Portugal look to have landed in a group of death against Germany, Ghana and the United States in Group G.

However, with Ronaldo leading the way, they should be relatively confident of progress.

Since bursting onto the international scene on home soil at the 2004 European Championships, Ronaldo has reached a final, two semi-finals, a quarter-final and lost out to eventual winners Spain in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup in five major tournament appearances.

Moreover, if Portugal finish second in the group behind Germany, there is no greater motivation for Ronaldo than a potential mouthwatering quarter-final clash against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

This year’s tournament will also be a poignant one for the whole of Portuguese football as it comes just months after the death of the legendary Eusebio.

Ronaldo recently became his country’s all-time leading goalscorer with a double against Cameroon in a friendly in March to move onto 49 goals from 110 international appearances.

However, he has never shone at a major tournament quite how Eusebio did with his nine goals in the 1966 World Cup as Portugal finished third.

“He was one of the most brilliant players in the world and he was Portuguese so it was a sad day for Portugal and the world,” Ronaldo said after “The Black Panther” passed away in January.

“I was sad especially because he was my friend. I was with him for many years in the national team. He was a special man for me and for all the Portuguese people.”

Unlike at club level, Ronaldo does not have the intense pressure like Barcelona rivals Messi or Neymar will have burdening the heavier expectations of Argentina and Brazil, nor even those carried by the European powerhouses Germany or Spain.

“We don’t have the pressure because we are not favourites and that is a good thing,” he said recently.

“The favourites are Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Germany, who we face in the first game in a difficult group.”

However, with a confidence that has marked his career, Ronaldo is determined to overcome the odds and land a first ever World Cup for his country.

“To win a World Cup would be the crowning glory of my career. Fist we have to get through the group stages and afterwards we will see.”

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Published: May 19, 2014 04:00 AM

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