ANALYSIS - Penalty miss exposes Ronaldo's set-piece obsession
PARIS (Reuters) - One question stands out after Portugal's 0-0 draw with Austria on Saturday -- does Cristiano Ronaldo have to take every single free kick and penalty?
If Portugal were to at least contemplate an alternative, they might not be ruing yet another failure to translate their dominance into three points.
But, rather like a playground kickabout where the owner of the ball always gets his own way, there is only ever one possible option and it has reached the stage where it is costing them crucial points in major tournaments.
The headlines will tell how Ronaldo missed a penalty late in the game on his record-breaking 128th appearance for his country, striking his effort against the post, but the two free kicks which he took, and wasted, were also significant.
The first was about 40 metres from goal and, even though scoring did not look like a reasonable possibility, Ronaldo insisted on having a crack. It went straight into the wall.
The second was on the edge of the penalty area, slightly to the right of goal and better suited to left-footed Raphael Guerreiro than right-footed Ronaldo.
Guerreiro stood over the ball alongside Ronaldo, more in hope than anything else. But, almost inevitably, it was the Real Madrid player who took the kick and curled it on to the roof of the net.
The warning signs had already come during a friendly against Bulgaria last March which Portugal also dominated, but lost 1-0 with Ronaldo missing another penalty.
They won four free kicks in possible scoring positions and Ronaldo took them all, hitting the wall twice and forcing saves from the goalkeeper with the other two.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos, perhaps understandably, did not want to discuss Ronaldo after the game. "I understand you and I don't talk about Cristiano," he said.
Overall, it was another frustrating night for 31-year-old Ronaldo, who has already been criticised for negative comments he made about Iceland's tactics following a 1-1 draw in their opening Group F match.
Always in the thick of the action, Portugal's immaculately-groomed all-time leading scorer also sidefooted wide from an excellent position in the first half and forced two good saves from Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer after halftime.
Often labelled as self-obsessed, Ronaldo showed another side to his character at the end of the game, when a supporter ran on to the pitch, evaded security, approached the number seven and asked for a selfie.
Ronaldo gestured to the security officials to leave the fan along and patiently posed for the picture.
He will be hoping the cameras capture him scoring in Portugal's final group game against leaders Hungary on Wednesday when qualification for the last 16 is on the line.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)