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Germany 4 Portugal 0: Increasingly desperate Cristiano Ronaldo left high and dry by inept team-mates

The world's best player failed to make much of an impact in his side's World Cup opener

Cristiano Ronaldo has bent everything in world football his way in the last year but an international tournament might be beyond even him.

The best player in the world has, in the last 12 months, hauled himself back beyond old rival Lionel Messi. He won back the Ballon d’Or, five years after he last held it. He won back the European Cup, after a six-year wait. But the one remaining gap in Ronaldo’s glorious haul is with Portugal and on the basis of this evidence they are not close to doing anything about it.

Portugal wilted in the heat of Salvador, putting in one of the worst performances of the World Cup so far. For all the hopes that they might undermine Germany’s challenge at first hurdle, showing up a missed fragility at the heart of Joachim Löw’s side, they were never able to do anything of the sort.

There were two brief moments, in the first 10 minutes, when it could have been Ronaldo’s day. He played one sharp pass to Hugo Almeida, whose shot was saved by Manuel Neuer, before hitting his own shot from a tight angle at Neuer after Veloso’s pass. It was an even start, a show of intent, which might have unsettled Germany had it lasted slightly longer.

The problem is that football is a team-game and even Cristiano Ronaldo is at the mercy of the quality and application of the other 10 players. He does not need them to be as good as him, he just needs a platform. Unfortunately, the rest of the Paulo Bento’s side could not even give him that.

When Almeida waited too long to play a pass through to Ronaldo – eventually inviting a tackle which forced him off with an injury – Ronaldo made abundantly clear how unimpressed he was, with the helicopter arm-waving he always shows when upset.


Teams can recover from imprecision up front, though. The game was lost at the back, where Portugal were dismal and Ronaldo was too far away to do anything about it. Joao Pereira allowed Mario Göetze to wriggle goal-side of him, brought him down and was lucky to stay on the field while Thomas Müller scored the penalty.

The second goal was bad marking from a corner, the third was Bruno Alves being pushed off the ball by Müller and the fourth was Rui Patricio spilling the ball to Müller in the box. It was amateur stuff but Pepe, whose red card made everything so much harder, was inexcusable. Upset by Müller’s reaction to a flailing arm, Pepe thrust his head into Müller’s. It was less malicious than much of what the Honduran players did on Sunday but it was unforgivably stupid from a player who has so much experience at the top end of the game.

Pepe headbutts Muller

As the match went on, Ronaldo was left charging around trying desperately to make any impact he could, hoping that even if he could not rescue the situation, he could remind people he was there. He won the ball and won a free-kick, but hit it into the wall. He robbed Götze, darted forward, but hit his shot at Mats Hummels. When referee Milorad Mazic turned down a penalty appeal after Benedikt Howedes tripped Eder, Ronaldo reacted as if he had just been cost the final.

Ronaldo protests to the referee

It was a sad sight, Ronaldo increasingly irrelevant and increasingly desperate when he did get the ball. Deep in added time, a brilliant dipping free-kick was well kept out by Neuer’s dive. There was nothing Ronaldo could do to save his team-mates, and nothing that his team-mates could do for him. When the game was over the captain stormed down the tunnel, while the other players in red huddled in the middle, all of them knowing the gap between him and them is too big.