He may have been crowned the world’s best player, but like his rival Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo will most likely only go down as one of the game’s all-time greats if he adds genuine World Cup success to his record. With the festival of football in Brazil just round the corner, what are the chances of Ronaldo making a permanent mark on football history?
There is little doubt that Ronaldo is at the peak of his powers. Given all that he has achieved, that is saying something. Aged 28, Ronaldo is in his prime. He is enjoying a truly outstanding season with Real Madrid and has just become Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer with a brace against Cameroon. There is no doubt that Ronaldo is capable of practically carrying this Portugal team singlehandedly – His stunning hat-trick in the World Cup play-off against Sweden is proof of that. However, he must rely on an excellent team performance throughout the World Cup if Portugal are to make real progress and better their semi-final finish at Euro 2012. Ronaldo is Portugal’s star turn, but he will need a reliable supporting cast alongside him.
If you check out the World Cup 2014 betting markets, you will find Portugal’s odds are similar to England’s for winning the tournament. However, this may be rather harsh on Paulo Bento’s side, which appears to include a healthy dose of experience and depth. Bento can rely on Joao Moutinho to dictate the pace of the game in the middle of the pitch, allowing Ronaldo the freedom to make his mark. Meanwhile, Ronaldo will be ably supported by two adventurous full-backs, Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira. During qualification, Portugal had their lapses in defence, but on its day the centre-back pairing of Bruno Alves and Pepe is a very tough nut for any attack to crack. Add in the top-level experience of players such as Raul Meireles and Manchester United winger Nani and there would seem little reason why Portugal shouldn’t be fancied to do well in Brazil.
In truth though, their weakness is up front. Still reliant on the likes of Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida, Portugal’s attack lacks teeth, a ruthless cutting edge. That is why Ronaldo’s goals are so important to Bento’s side. And if he can hit the net with regularity this summer, a genuine World Cup tilt could await Cristiano Ronaldo.