Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo confessed to being a broken man after his side’s crushing World Cup defeat to Iberian rivals Spain.
The 25-year-old Real Madrid star said he felt a deep sadness at their exit at the hands of the European champions, who progressed to a quarter-final meeting with Paraguay thanks to David Villa’s fourth goal of the tournament.
“I feel a broken man, completely disconsolate, frustrated and an unimaginable sadness,” said Ronaldo who was roundly blamed by the Portuguese media for the defeat.
“Ronaldo played one of his worst matches ever for the national side,” commented Correio da Manha.
Publico took the same dim point of view of the superstar’s displays.
“Ronaldo missed out completely on this World Cup. Jose Mourinho said that Portugal would not win this World Cup even if Ronaldo was going at 1,000 kilometres an hour. But he did not even get near the speed of a cruise ship.”
Ronaldo arrived in South Africa vowing to confirm his status as one of the game’s most enduring talents, but he once again failed to produce his club form at country level at a major championship.
Sporadically decisive in the group phase, when he scored once in a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, Ronaldo was unable to exert any kind of influence as the 2006 semi-finalists succumbed to Spain’s fabled passing carousel.
Having played on the left against North Korea and as a lone central forward in the 0-0 draw with Brazil, the world’s most expensive player began Tuesday’s game on the right.
His first involvement saw him horribly mis-control a kick-out from Portugal goal-keeper Eduardo and his first dribble down the flank ended with a foul by Carles Puyol that went unpunished, much to the Real Madrid star’s displeasure.
The skipper registered Portugal’s first shot on target with a typically ambitious long-range free-kick and his next dead-ball effort, from all of 37 metres, forced a save from club-mate Iker Casillas.
But the number seven cut a subdued figure in the second half as Spain tightened their grip on the match and was left even more isolated when coach Carlos Queiroz withdrew strapping target man Hugo Almeida in the 58th minute.
Ronaldo appeared to be confused by Queiroz consistently changing tactics and the game finished without Ronaldo once getting the fans out of their seats.
To make matters worse, he was forced to deny that he insulted his coach. Ronaldo stalked off refusing to answer questions after the match save to remark to a TV crew, “How can I explain it [the defeat]. Ask Queiroz.”
Ronaldo, who ended up trophy-less at Real Madrid last season after his transfer from Manchester United, was roundly criticised at home for that and for not assuming his responsibilities as the national captain.
“When I said put the question to the coach, it is just because Queiroz was holding a press conference,” explained Ronaldo, the 2008 World Footballer of the Year. “I was not in a position to explain what was what. I am a human being, and like any human being I suffer and I have the right to suffer alone. I know that I am the captain, and I have always assumed and will assume my responsibilities.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2010.