Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo's True Redemption: A Euro 2012 Championship

Never one to shy away from being critical of the brightest and best players, I am going to resist temptation to slam one Cristiano Ronaldo. It's so in vogue after all, but I'm no trend follower. And, what's a couple of missed breakaways between friends?

Ronaldo certainly got his redemption Sunday against the dumpy Dutch to lead Portugal out of the Euro 2012 Group of Death and into the quarterfinals. Two clutch goals erased an early 1-0 lead and cemented CR7 as the most polarizing figure of Euro 2012 so far. Ronaldo has for so long been an enigma in a Portugal jersey. Either brilliant or baffling, he's never boring.

Ronaldo mohawk or faux-hawk?
Ronaldo's woes were really magnified when he missed two breakaways against Denmark, a game Portugal won 2-1. He also hit a couple of posts against the Netherlands on Sunday and had another blatant chance for what could have been a fifth. In the opener against Germany, Ronaldo had opportunities, but didn't get the ball enough and apparently spent too much time changing his hairstyle to a mohawk at halftime to concentrate on the mighty Germans. Maybe he figured he'd see them again in the final?

Ronaldo is definitely trending upward however. He's been better in each match; if you're hitting posts, it means you're in position to score--never a bad thing. Ronaldo has also played both ends of the field and been Portugal's overall best player. And he should be. Aside from he-who-shall-not-be-named, CR7 is the best player on the field every time he's on it. His superfluous step-overs aside, he has tremendous speed and intimidates defenders into playing off of him, even as he's bearing down on the box. He's an obnoxious diver, and a selfish whiner to the referees as we saw in the first half of the Holland game (you can't start screaming for a call when your teammates are attacking behind you!).

But there are tradeoffs we all make in every walk of life. Those of you who live on Facebook give up gobs of privacy to the Cult of Zuckerberg in order to share all those innocuous details about your lunch. In football, you tolerate the quirks of the prissy Ronaldos of the game because when they're brilliant, they're awe-inspiring. You don't score 60 goals in a season without being special. And naturally, winning La Liga, getting to the Champions League semis, the Euro 2012 quarterfinals and scoring 60 goals isn't enough in this what-have-you-done-for-me lately society.

And I guess that's OK. Sports fans can be selfish. I root for Portugal. I want them to win. I'm already trying to figure out how they can beat Spain in the semis once they shoo aside the Czechs on Thursday. But I'm also a realist, and I understand that they won't do squat without Cristiano Ronaldo again scoring one, two or three times. Portugal has weaknesses, yet players such as CR7 cover up a lot of blemishes.

Redemption against the Netherlands is one thing. Ronaldo has beaten back some personal demons perhaps, and regained some lost confidence. Now it's time to take that to the next level and excel in every game left on Portugal's slate and perhaps fulfill your destiny as the country's best player ever?

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