Euro 2020: Did Cristiano Ronaldo fail Portugal?

Ronaldo scored twice against Hungary in the span of five minutes.
Ronaldo scored twice against Hungary in the span of five minutes.

With Euro 2020 just a match away from completion, fans all across the world have been treated to some of the most action-packed football in a while.

From France's dramatic shootout exit at the hands of Switzerland to Spain scoring ten goals in two games, the historic tournament has provided entertainment galore. Patrick Schick proved to be the surprise package, shooting the Czechs into the quarter-finals with five goals, including a wonder strike from the halfway line.

But to no one's surprise, it is Cristiano Ronaldo who leads the scoring charts (jointly), with five strikes and an assist in just four games. But did Ronaldo perform as well at Euro 2020 as his numbers suggest? Let's analyse.

Portugal barely escaped out of a tough Euro 2020 group

Defending champions Portugal were drawn in 'the group of death' at Euro 2020, alongside world champions France, heavyweights Germany and minnows Hungary. The Selecao finished behind first-placed France and level on points with Germany, barely qualifying for the knockout stage as one of four best third-placed teams.

However, it is important to note that Ronaldo was directly involved in six of Portugal's seven goals at Euro 2020. He put in an especially thorough performance against France. Only Ciro Immobile and Robert Lewandowski registered better shots per game ratios than Ronaldo in the group stage.

The Portugal captain produced three precise penalties, a tap-in and a sublime finish after rounding off Hungary's number one. That meant the Portuguese legend equalled Ali Daei's record for most goals scored for by a player in international football.

Additionally, the 36-year-old attacker also became the all-time Euro top scorer during the tournament. With 109 goals in 179 appearances to his name, Ronaldo truly rewrote history at Euro 2020. However, despite his exploits, Portugal's title defence ended early, as they were dumped out of the tournament by Belgium in the Round of 16.

Portugal and Ronaldo - How things unfolded at Euro 2020

A deeper look into Portugal's performances at Euro 2020 would reveal many hidden cracks even if they had an arguably better team this time than the one that triumphed at Euro 2016.

Most of their build-up play was focused on their flanks, with Nelson Semedo and Raphael Guerreiro making many runs in the opposition half. Excluding Renato Sanches and Rafa Silva, most of the other Portugal players played very conservatively.

The constant sideways passing made the lack of dynamism awfully apparent in Portugal's play at Euro 2020. Considering his team's plight, one can always question Ronaldo's role in their subpar performances. But in reality, he was often the sole player left in the opposition's half when the rest of his squad were busy playing from the back.

There were only two circumstances where Ronaldo chose to drop deep: either to press the defenders during the opposition's initial build-up play or to collect the ball in dire situations, rarely creating anything. So the question remains. Did Ronaldo do enough for his team to progress, or is he to blame for Portugal's early exit from Euro 2020?

Certainly not. Cristiano Ronaldo has always been Portugal's talisman, the man to lead their attack. But he was neither responsible for creating chances nor played a crucial part in Portugal's ball-progression at Euro 2020.

Ronaldo's major role in the latter stage of his career has been to score as many goals as possible. The former Real Madrid forward is best known for his aerial prowess, positioning and near-perfect runs. He is a prolific goalscorer, one of the best in the game, but not a creator.

The fact that Portugal fizzled out of Euro 2020 so tamely has a lot to do with Fernando Santos's tactics and how he used his players. There is no shortage of talent in Portugal, as was showcased by the likes of Joao Felix and Ruben Dias. But they never performed as a team to the best of their abilities at Euro 2020.

To say that Cristiano Ronaldo has been the best player at Euro 2020 would be a bit far-fetched. Nevertheless, the Juventus superstar had an amazing tournament on an individual level, regardless of his team's title defence ending in a proverbial whimper.

Edited by Bhargav
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