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Will Cristiano Ronaldo find his shooting boots this summer?

Cristiano Ronaldo smiles when he tries to justify why he didn’t score in qualifying by saying: “I am saving my goals for the World Cup.”

There is no doubt that the most expensive player on the planet needs to rediscover his goalscoring touch with the national team if they stand a chance of advancing from a challenging group phase. Ronaldo’s drought worries Portugal fans, many of whom don’t understand why he has struggled so much with the

Seleccao das Quinas. Some have even criticised their captain, going as far as accusing him of not trying hard enough when he plays for his country.

This is unfair. He huffed and puffed during the seven games he took part in on the road to the World Cup – and perhaps even tried too hard. As captain, he aims to lead by example and maybe the constant pressure he has to deal with affected his performances.

Another fact to consider is that when he plays for Portugal, Ronaldo seldom has the space or time to shine. As soon as he gets the ball, he is surrounded by two, sometimes three defenders, and – let’s face it – he may be an exceptional talent, but the Real Madrid star is not Superman.

Getting the best out of Ronaldo is one of the challenges for Carlos Queiroz. Many in Portugal believe the coach also has to shoulder part of the blame for his forward’s struggles. He insists on playing Ronaldo in a central role when the majority of fans believe he has been more effective on the wing.

No popular approval
Queiroz has never enjoyed popular approval in Portugal since his appointment in 2008. Even though the national team won five consecutive matches at the end of qualifying, many still believe he is not the right man to lead their country into the latter stages of the World Cup. They haven’t forgotten some poor recent performances and results, namely a 0-0 home draw with Albania and a 6-2 away defeat by Brazil in a friendly.

The uncertainty surrounding Portugal’s best player and their coach means a large section of the nation don’t have high hopes for South Africa. A repeat performance of the last World Cup, in which Portugal reached the semi-finals, looks unlikely and most people would already be happy to see them get as far as the last eight.

Then again, if Cristiano Ronaldo is at his best anything can happen…

The view from Portugal

“Expectations are lower than usual and that may help the team make it past a very difficult group. Having a player like Cristiano Ronaldo makes me believe we can make it far, but we need Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho to be fully fit.”
Jorge Goulao, SportTV

“Although Portugal are in a very difficult group, we have enough quality players to make it through to the knockout phase. The key factor will be getting at least a point in our first game. We cannot lose to the Ivory Coast.”
Former international Paulo Bento

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