Heyyyyy Portugal. How you doin’? I’m sure you get this all the time, but you look really good tonight.
I first noticed you when your Meireles was slotting home a shot off a defense-paralyzing pass from Tiago. Thought, “now that one’s got some potential.” But that second half? Wooo, nothing potential about that. It was one hell of a coming out party.
I don’t want to recap 7 freaking goals. The Guardian has you covered there. For me, there were two main takeaways from this game.
1) This was a total team (offensive) effort from Portugal.
Take the second goal, for example: Miguel to Meireles to Almeida to Simao. Pure dissection. Tiago scored twice, Carvalho was controlling the opening minutes, and probably the least-discussed offensive star of the game was Fabio Coentrao with his beautiful passing throughout. They were a little shaky in defense until the game got out of control, but when attacking, every single Portuguese player involved made huge plays.
2) The Ronaldo conundrum
I don’t recall him being involved in the first two goals, though he may have been a link in the chain somewhere. If I missed some critical play made by him to get either of those two scores, then you’re welcome to disregard everything below. But assuming he was as invisible as he appeared to me in the first 50 minutes of the game (especially compared to all other offensive teammates), this match raises some fascinating questions about Cristiano Ronaldo.
First of all, he played a legendary second half. His precise assist on the 4th goal, the two subsequent passes that set up how-did-they-waste-that misses from Meireles and Coentrao, his long-range blast off the post, the juggling, ball-off-his-head goal to end his national drought, and countless other moments — Ronaldo imposed his will on the North Koreans.
But he only played that way after the game was in hand. Does that mitigate the performance at all? Because it’s pretty easy to recap this game as the story of a guy who was way too tense when it mattered but found it easy to relax after his teammates had put the opponent on life support. That certainly fits with the broader narrative of Ronaldo, whether or not it’s fair.
We can all agree that Ronaldo was struggling to make an impact before this game, and we can all agree that he left a crater on this one. Whether he’s ready to turn Portugal into a title contender when it matters, only time will tell.