Cristiano Ronaldo and the art of winding up haters
As the clock winds up the careers of the best players in any sport, there always looms an aura of uncertainty and doubts over their future in the game. Strikers and wingers, in general, tend to slow down, lose their quick dribbling skills and footwork and eventually end up forgoing the once unparalleled charm in their game.
Naturally, the players tend to bow down in front of the power of time and age, slowly paving their way past the fag end of their careers.
Then, we see someone like Cristiano Ronaldo.
For someone who has been incessantly bashed, written off, mocked and trolled after every single week, there is something extraordinarily brilliant about the demeanour of this man. Ronaldo is one of those players who would be looked down upon, made fun of even if he ends up scoring a hat trick in the most important match from the initial stages of a World Cup. Does it in any way deter the confidence of this man? Hell no.
Even after the waves of unnecessary complaints towards him, Ronaldo has hardly given a bit of thought to what the layman thinks about his game. When people run out of topics to defy the greatness of this man, they resort to feeble arguments, which hold no importance in the overall emanation of the player that he is.
Cristiano has time and again risen up from the ashes, shrugged aside any doubts over his longevity and has stunned people with his ever-increasing, enviable hunger to demonstrate and prove his mettle in the toughest competitions.
However, the fact that he hasn’t lifted the World Cup with Portugal means that there are always some apprehensions over his effectiveness and continuation of the same level of performance on the international stage. Despite the fact that he has scored 84 international goals for his country, this point often arises when you talk about him during national duty.
So, on a buzzing Friday night, when lads and lasses had gathered in pubs to witness an action-packed ninety minutes of the Iberian derby, the big man decided to turn up.
And boy, did he turn up?
It took just three minutes for him to make a blazing run from the left-handed side of the box in which he found some half-space in front. Amid a step-over, Ronaldo cheekily saw Nacho in front of him and tricked the fullback into fouling him into the box.
Mind you, it wasn’t a dive. Nacho could have refrained from lunging, but he didn’t and it resulted in a spot-kick for Portugal very early into the game. There are many theories surrounding the awarding of spot-kick with fans even questioning whether it was a legitimate penalty appeal.
Immensely immature calls of ‘Penaldo’ were out straightaway, but lay back and think for a while. Portugal’s playing XI can hardly provide any competition to the Spanish side.
A star-studded, cohesive Spaniard lineup could have dismantled the Portuguese team with incessant passing and possession-based play. So, why would the opposition captain not look for an early advantage in the game if that comes through a penalty?
Such acts by players like Luis Suarez (the infamous hand blocking incident in the 2010 WC) are cloaked under the fact that Suarez was ready to do anything to ensure a victory for his side.
Why the hypocrisy when it comes Ronaldo then?
After all, Cristiano was looking to gain an advantage in the game through legitimate terms, not by securing a booking in the process. Disregarding penalty goals might be one of the stupidest things that football fans have been doing in recent times.
Haven’t failed spot-kicks led to sudden international retirements?
Moreover, the authority and command, which Ronaldo radiates while stepping up to take the penalty, is unmatchable in the football circuit. With any other player, there is always some doubts or reservations over the fact that whether the given player could finish off the penalty.
With Ron, the cards flip down completely. In front of the best custodian in European football, Ronaldo rushed his run-up and sent de Gea the wrong way with a simple, strong finish yet again.
Moreover, the match was much more significant due to the fact that Ronaldo seemed to have rolled back the years in the open play with his smart runs and deft touches to boost up the counter-attacks too. Portugal played a somewhat defensive formation and planned to attack Spain on the counter.
Ronaldo was crucial to every attacking move, as he directed his lesser-experienced teammates, threaded through-balls and played some good passes to move the team up on the field.
He made those tricky sprints, got behind the defenders to get at the end of the passing triangles, and had a great game even if you chop off the goals from his entire performance. Moreover, he was leading the side, constantly pointing out to the players to get back to their positions.
He maintained a good control over the players, regularly driving the team ahead and pegging back whenever required too. His steel-faced attitude demonstrated that Ronaldo wasn’t here for a loss, and was ready to push his limits in order to secure a respectable result in a game that they started as the underdogs.
The second goal from Ronaldo was courtesy of an uncharacteristic howler by de Gea, something that none of us are used to seeing from the Manchester United goalkeeper. A powerful left-footed shot was directed straight at de Gea, but the ball slipped past DDG’s gloves and resulted into a goal.
There was obviously an extravagant celebration from Ronaldo, a sign of relief at the fact that they snatched the lead going into the halftime.
Now, there has been denunciation from many quarters over Ronaldo’s celebration after goals too.
Are you kidding me?
Footballers break their sweat and work all around the year to notch consistently good performances for their club and country. Who are we to question their style of celebration or the intensity and passion that they display moments after the goal? It is a thoroughly personal choice, and nudging such petty issues just highlights my earlier point of how people try to demean Ronaldo even when they run out of acceptable arguments.
Spain were roaring back after the halftime break, as some regular waves of attack saw them score two successive, quick goals. Costa equalized with a tap-in and then Nacho struck a perfect half-volley to take the lead with more than thirty minutes to go. Now, this was the point when most of the Portuguese fans had given up hope.
With the Spaniards maintaining the majority of possession, there were few chances for Portugal to find an equalizer. It would have been a major letdown for Ronaldo’s team, as Portugal had managed to gain a good enough advantage early on in the match.
With around five minutes to go, Gerrard Pique pressurized Ronaldo around the penalty box. Ronaldo tripped, earned a free kick in a promising position and left Pique frustrated. The Catalan was having an unconvincing game of sorts and he capped it off by giving away a silly foul in the dying embers of the game.
Here is where the game begins.
Cristiano, for long, had been an entertainer at Manchester and even in his initial years at Spain. Twinkle toeing past defenders, bursting into the box during counter-attacks, showing off his ruthlessness in set pieces; Ronaldo was someone who brought the spectators to the edge of their seats due to his sumptuous abilities on the dead ball.
However, as his dribbling skills waned in the past couple of years, Ronaldo remodeled himself to a player who would focus more on scoring goals, rather than creating chances. The Portuguese talisman has essentially become a tremendous goal-scoring machine of sorts. His free kicks often end up in the row Z these days, but yesterday, that was not the case.
As Ronaldo stepped up to take the kick from a rather indifferent angle, there was an uncharacteristic charisma surrounding the whole build-up to the kick. It was as if you could hear his breaths all over here in India, the intensity in his eyes, the fire that was demonstrated through them.
Cristiano took three deep breaths, pulled up his shorts displaying those oh so well toned quads, and took a sly step ahead to kick the ball.
It wasn’t a kick, as such. Ronaldo seemed to have written ‘artistry’ written all over the ball and simply curled the ball around the wall as Gerrard Pique and Sergio Busquets jumped hoping to somehow block the attempt. The nonchalance with which that ball avoided the wall, and then entwined inwards; WOOF!
It hit the top corner, and Ronaldo sprinted, jumped and crossed his hands across in that trademark celebration of his. For a moment over there, he just displayed what champions are actually made of.
The aura that he exuded, the authority that he had over his teammates, and the confidence with which he took that final kick just went on to explain how excellently he had stepped up and stole the show when it was required the most.
Yes, to give your best performance with a not so exemplary team in a very important World Cup match, that is what a bloody legendary player, does. That is what Cristiano Ronaldo does.
Go on; continue with your unstoppable, irritating whining. Despite your perpetual, useless attempts to bring him down, Cristiano will keep on protracting his brilliance on the biggest of stages.
Take a bow, you unworldly beauty, take a bow!