Portugal’s World Cup Hopes Rest on Ronaldo

When the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks-off this June in South Africa, perhaps no player will be paid more attention to than Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.  Whether it’s his fancy footwork or petulance on the field, fans of the game either love him or hate him.  Without a doubt if Portugal wants to make a deep run in the tournament or let alone make it out of their “group of death”, Ronaldo will have to be on top form.

The 25-year old Galactico certainly doesn’t lack the confidence or talent to succeed in South Africa.  In 34 La Liga and Champions League games this year Ronaldo amassed 33 goals.  In his last two years at Manchester United he scored a combined 68 goals.  Yet in 70 appearances for his country he has just 22 goals.  Even more shocking is that his last competitive goal for Portugal was against the Czech Republic in the 2008 European Championship.

Ronaldo bursted onto the national team spotlight at the 2004 Euros.  He was an intricate part of the veteran Portuguese squad that made a run to the final only to fall to the unlikely champions from Greece.  At the 2006 World Cup in Germany Ronaldo was remembered for his play acting and riff with then Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney.  His only goal of that competition was  a penalty kick against Iran.

While Portugal’s hopes certainly fall on Ronaldo, he does have talent surrounding him.  Portuguese boss Carlos Quieroz brought in Brazilian-born Liedson who chipped in two important goals in qualifying.  If Nani, Simao, and Deco can add more firepower to the offensive attack, Portugal could be a dominant force.

Often compared with similar styles of play, Portugal has a tough draw with five time champion Brazil.  Also competing for top spot in the group will be the strongest African nation, the Ivory Coast.  The Portugal-Ivory Coast match-up on June15 will be crucial in determining who has a leg up in the group.  Neither team will want to rest its hopes on securing three points versus Brazil.

The debate continues, Ronaldo or Argentina’s Lionel Messi?  The thought of the two on the same pitch brings eagerness to fans all over the world.  However if Cristiano Ronaldo can bring his nation its first World Cup trophy, he may just reclaim the possession of the world’s greatest.

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