Ronaldo’s World Cup? All 2018 Cameras on Portugal’s Golden Boy

Though his team hasn’t qualified for the second round yet, Ronaldo is spearheading the superstars this World Cup.

Published21 Jun 2018, 07:18 AM IST
FIFA World Cup 2018
4 min read

Cristiano Ronaldo walked out for warm-ups at the sun-splashed Luzhniki Stadium sporting a goatee and diamonds on his ears — the greatest of all time player.

He sparkled, even before the opening whistle of Portugal's World Cup match against Morocco. And then he validated his flashy look with another glittering goal.

Ronaldo’s new GOAT-ee and diamond studs during training keep the focus squarely on the standout striker
Ronaldo’s new GOAT-ee and diamond studs during training keep the focus squarely on the standout striker
(Photo: AP)

Gems removed, Ronaldo headed to Joao Moutinho's cross after Bernardo Silva's short corner kick in the fourth minute to become the career international scoring leader among European players, and followed with one of his look-at-me celebratory runs.

Ronaldo’s tournament-high fourth goal stood up for a 1-0 win over a tenacious Moroccan team on Wednesday, putting the European champions in good position to advance to the World Cup’s knockout rounds.

Prolific scorer, pretty boy. Acrobat, diver. Winner, whiner.

Goatee and goals are turning this into Ronaldo's World Cup at 33, past the age considered a soccer player's prime.

He’s like a port wine. He knows how to refine his capacity and age at his best
Portugal coach Fernando Santos, through a translator
Its a race to first place and Ronaldo’s efforts in the 2018 FIFA World Cup have not been found wanting
Its a race to first place and Ronaldo’s efforts in the 2018 FIFA World Cup have not been found wanting
(Photo: AP)

Ronaldo's competition with Lionel Messi is the great Millennial rivalry in sports, soccer's version of Ali vs Frazier, Bird vs Magic, DiMaggio vs Williams.

They've split the last 10 FIFA Player of the Year awards. Ronaldo has won four Champions League titles with Real Madrid in the past decade, Messi three with Barcelona.

Ronaldo covets attention. After the first of his three goals against Spain in Portugal's opener last week, Ronaldo stroked his chin as he ran in celebration. Adidas is running an advertisement featuring Messi with a real goat.

No question Ronaldo works hard to be the best, whether it's effort in training, nutrition to keep his body resembling Michelangelo's "David" or ensuring proper rest.

"He does everything he needs to be better every day," Portugal defender Cedric said.

Ronaldo's 85th goal moved him one ahead of Ferenc Puskas into sole possession of second on the career international scoring list, trailing only Ali Daei's 109 goals for Iran. He broke free of defender Manuel Da Costa and leaned low for a header from the top of the 6-yard box.

Cristiano Ronaldo sets up before heading in the deciding goal in Portugal’s win over Morocco on Wednesday, 20 June
Cristiano Ronaldo sets up before heading in the deciding goal in Portugal’s win over Morocco on Wednesday, 20 June
(Photo: AP)

"It was beautiful for me," Ronaldo said after FIFA presented him with his second straight man of the match award.

He already has surpassed Pele and Diego Maradona in one measure. Ronaldo has an airport named after him — Aeroporto da Madeira, on the island near his birthplace in Funchal. There may be debate over the GOAT, but Ronaldo definitely is FNC — the airport's three-letter code.

Later in the year, he dyed his hair gold before accepting the Ballon d'Or — golden ball. He hasn't been available to discuss his scoring, or even his chin stroking and new fuzz. After the match, he walked past reporters without stopping while holding a mobile phone to an ear.

Ronaldo later said during a television interview he didn't shave his chin before last week's game against Spain and promised teammate Ricardo Quaresma that if he scored he would keep the goatee throughout the tournament.

For the World Cup, the Golden Boot-leader has incorporated a ballet-like flourish to his usual celebration
For the World Cup, the Golden Boot-leader has incorporated a ballet-like flourish to his usual celebration
(Photo: AP)

Long known for dousing his hair with gel, Ronaldo hopes to be part of a team that jells into a world champion. He helped the Portuguese reach the semifinals in his first World Cup in 2006 and led Portugal to its first major title at the European Championship two years ago in France.

If Portugal wins its group and Argentina is second — or if Portugal is second and Argentina first — Ronaldo and Messi could even face each other in the final.

Can Ronaldo stay at a high level long enough to play in a fifth World Cup in 2022? “His physical capacity, his technical prowess, his strategy, he’s always evolving,” Santos said, “contrarily to the regular players.”  

(For complete FIFA World Cup 2018 coverage, click here to visit our special WC page.)

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