In the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic stood in the way of Portugal's dream of qualifying for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
In the first leg of their play-off tie in Lisbon, Sweden defended like a great wall, frustrating Portugal and slowly taking them away from their desire to qualify for the World Cup finals.
However, in the 82nd minute of the game, Miguel Veloso's superb cross found Ronaldo who didn't disappoint as he headed home for Portugal, gaining an advantage in the tie.
The quest for early dominance
The next match became one of the best ever goal-scoring displays by Cristiano in his entire career.
The first half was again a rigid display of defense by Sweden, not allowing Ronaldo and co to score. But in the process, their talismanic striker Ibrahimovic was forced to fill the void created in the midfield.
In the early stages of the second half, CR7's off the ball movement paid off as Joao Moutinho's through ball found Ronaldo in acres of space behind the last line of the Swedish defense.
He latched on the ball, taking two sweet touches and taking it further away from the Swedish goal guardians. CR7 then unleashed a thunderous strike with his left foot beyond the Swedish goalkeeper Isaksson to silence the noisy Friends Arena.
However, Zlatan had other ideas. He arrived on the scene in the 68th minute by nodding in a corner from Kim Kallstrom, providing a ray of hope for the Swedish fans. 5 minutes after, he gave them their voices back with a sensational free-kick that rocked the back of the Portugal net and threatened to thwart Portuguese hopes of getting a ticket for Brazil.
Boisterous Friends Arena scented blood and raised the decibels to deafening levels. The danger of conceding again loomed over Portugal as they started panicking.
With the pressure mounting and the scoreline reading 2-1 in favor of Sweden needing one more strike to qualify, Cristiano produced two moments of inspiration for which legends are born.
The moment of inspiration
The first moment of inspiration came in the 76th minute of the encounter. He positioned himself far away from any Swedish soldier to pounce on a through ball from Almeida. He took one touch and blasted past Isaksson, an angled drive that killed the Swedish dream.
If any glimmer of hope remained for Zlatan and co, he ended that as he took another through ball from Joao Moutinho moments after, caressing the ball twice to take it past the onrushing shot-stopper, and then let loose a strike onto the underside of the crossbar and the back of the net.
Cometh the hour, Cometh the man. It was the performance that established him as one of the greats of the game.
It was a moment that comes rarely in the footballing career of a player. Cristiano Ronaldo strengthened his case to challenge Messi and his Ballon d'Or exhibitions. The man with a mission was on his way to Brazil.
To be continued...Published 19 Aug 2018, 00:59 IST