- Cristiano Ronaldo performed poorly in Portugal’s final World Cup group game against Iran on Monday.
- Portugal surrendered a 1-0 lead and eventually drew 1-1 to a side ranked 33 places below them in the world.
- Ronaldo could have won the game had he scored a penalty – a goal that would have seen him match England striker Harry Kane’s tally of five goals at the 2018 tournament in Russia.
- But Ronaldo remains rooted to four and must now look to score against Uruguay – an international side renowned for its defensive ingenuity, and one that has kept its sheet clean for six matches in a row.
- Read all of Business Insider’s World Cup coverage here.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most competitive and determined athletes in sports – even former teammate, Patrice Evra, said so when he recently shared an intimate anecdote regarding the Portugal striker.
It is therefore unlikely that anybody in the Portugal national soccer team will have woken up more annoyed than Ronaldo this morning.
The Real Madrid star missed a penalty kick, narrowly escaped a red card, and generally had a performance to forget as Portugal capitulated against Iran in a FIFA World Cup group game on Monday.
Ricardo Quaresma scored Portugal’s only goal in the 45th minute – and even Ronaldo may begrudgingly admit it was a greater goal than any he had scored so far in this tournament.
With the outside of his boot, Quaresma smacked the ball into the goal from a great distance.
Watch it here:
But this isn’t a story about Quaresma’s screamer.
No, this is a story about Ronaldo – his squandered opportunity to equal Harry Kane’s 2018 World Cup goals haul, the subsequent Portuguese failure to top a winnable Group B table, and how the striker may have screwed himself out of the coveted Golden Boot award, the prize given to the World Cup’s top goalscorer.
Ronaldo failed to do what he normally does best
Iranian forward Karim Ansarifard canceled out Quaresma’s goal late in Monday’s match, scoring a 93rd minute penalty to bring the score to 1-1 – a result that meant Portugal finished second in the group, relinquishing top spot to Spain.
But the result, and the complexion of the group, could have been so different had Ronaldo done what Ronaldo usually does best – score.
Ronaldo failed to make an impression in the opposition box, though. He rarely touched the ball in the penalty area and was unable to sway the game in his, and Portugal’s, favour.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 25, 2018
With Portugal already leading 1-0, Ronaldo even had an opportunity to score from the spot, having won a penalty in the second half. He stepped up, struck the ball – and to everyone’s surprise – was denied by Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Had Ronaldo scored that penalty, he would have extended his 2018 World Cup goals haul to five while simultaneously taking Portugal to the top of the Group B table.
But, alas, he remains rooted on four goals and is one behind top goalscorer Harry Kane (who has one game still to play), while Portugal slumped into second place.
The importance of first and second in Group B cannot be underestimated.
Spain, who finished top, takes on Russia in a Round of 16 knockout match on Sunday.
Portugal, who placed second, has the tougher match as it collides with Uruguay – a tough South American team that has won all of its World Cup matches so far.
More importantly perhaps for Ronaldo, is the fact that this is a match that will test his goalscoring skills to the limit.
This is because Uruguay is fortified by some of the best defenders in international soccer – one of them, José Giménez, is the top-ranked defender in Business Insider’s list of the 23 best soccer players at the 2018 World Cup so far.
In three 2018 World Cup group games, Uruguay is yet to concede a goal. Its defence will likely be tested by Ronaldo, but it is fully capable of flummoxing the 33-year-old.
As Reuters notes, the country’s “sterling defensive work” has perhaps overshadowed the team’s marquee striking talents Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez – two players who can torment Portugal this weekend and knock Ronaldo out of the tournament for good.
Uruguay currently is on a run of six clean sheets in a row, and Reuters says this underlines “the importance coach Oscar Tabarez places on defence, despite the attacking riches at his disposal.”
Reuters adds that Ronaldo “may find Uruguay a tougher nut to crack than he has faced so far in the tournament.”
And if he fails to crack it, he only has himself to blame.
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