Sport

Colm Cavanagh: Ronaldo may not have wanted to go out like this but his record is still the envy of many

Always in the spotlight: Fans try to get a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo as he leaves the field following Portugal's defeat to Morocco in the quarter-finals of the World Cup Picture: AP
Always in the spotlight: Fans try to get a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo as he leaves the field following Portugal's defeat to Morocco in the quarter-finals of the World Cup Picture: AP

AS much as I raved about the benefits of cold water therapy recently, I think the current weather is taking it a bit extreme. It will take a few more degrees before I would even consider having a sea dip I’m afraid.

I’m more likely to be found on the sofa with the fire lit enjoying what is left of the World Cup these evenings. So far, the tournament hasn’t been without its fair share of drama, surprises, and excitement.

I think if anyone had said at the beginning of the tournament that Morocco would be in a semi-final having beaten Belgium, Spain, and Portugal on their way, even the Moroccan squad themselves wouldn’t have believed it. There's no denying Lady Luck has been on their side but their attitude and commitment to the game is brilliant and the complete pride with which they wear the jersey and represent their country is inspirational.

The dream final for the media and for drama would have been Argentina v Portugal, Messi v Ronaldo, the blockbuster that everyone wanted to see, however, it's not to be.

At the time of writing Messi was still in with a chance of winning the one trophy that has eluded him so far. If his performances keep going how he has played so far, and Argentina do win the World Cup it would be hard to argue that he isn’t potentially the best player in history.

Watching on, it is hard not to compare Messi and Ronaldo, but the media depictions of the two couldn’t be more different over the past few weeks. Messi is being portrayed as the golden boy of soccer while Ronaldo is the villain, out for himself, not a team player, petulant and disruptive.

Maybe it's being a Man United fan that makes me look at Ronaldo through rose tinted glasses, but I don’t think he is as bad as being made out.

I watched the Portugal v Switzerland game when Ronaldo was dropped to the bench. To be fair his replacement Goncalo Ramos had the game of his life, an absolute dream performance from him, but every time Ramos touched the ball ,the camera would pan across to the bench to see what Ronaldo’s reaction was.

At the beginning of the game, during the anthems there is a photo showing more media facing the bench than there was facing the players. For Ronaldo to be under that level of media pressure and scrutiny is bound to be difficult and create frustrations.

When Portugal scored, Ronaldo celebrated just like the rest of the squad. The media intensity only heightened for the Morocco game when he was again starting on the bench. When he did get his chance to play, you could see the frustration and the effort he was going to.

A lot of this has been portrayed as his trying to prove himself, I honestly think he just wanted the team to get through. He, like Messi, doesn’t have a World Cup medal and as much as he might think he can play forever, I would think that this year was his last opportunity to get one.

When Morocco won and Ronaldo knew that his chance was up, he left the pitch in tears.

I don’t agree with him not remaining on the field with the rest of the team as a collective unit to recognise both their supporters and the rest of the squad who had all given their all. He was visibly upset, and I understand that he would have wanted his privacy to process that the dream was over rather than a camera in his face, but it is one of those times when he should have swallowed his pride and stuck it out.

I don’t think we will see him playing at another World Cup. As much as he probably currently feels like he could play, another four years of intense training and expecting to participate at 42 years of age seems like a pipe dream to me. Even the Euros in 2024 could be a bridge too far.

If this was his farewell to international football, it is a sad way to go but his records speak for themselves.

Although the final might not be between teams initially expected to be there, it has the potential to be equally as dramatic as some of the games so far.

It is impossible to make a call on potential winners after some of the results we have seen, but as long as there is a decent referee in the middle then the games should be good – if the referees are like some of the previous then the games will be entertaining if nothing else.

The standard so far has been ‘questionable’ with some farcical decisions costing teams dearly.

Over the next few weeks there is plenty to look forward to. Harry Loughran has been at intense physio for weeks to ensure he makes it up the aisle smoothly this weekend, the final World Cup games will distract us from any hangovers afterwards and then I’m really hoping to be on the nice list the following week to receive a gift from the big man himself. I want to wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe Christmas season, take a break, relax, and enjoy a slower pace for a week or two and reset. Merry Christmas Everyone.