World Cup 2014: Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard try to spark one-man teams

Both Portugal and Belgium are underachieving and owe much to their star men

In today’s final round of group games, two world-class players will try to drag their underperforming teams up to their own high level.

Belgium have six points and Portugal have just one, but neither have played as well as they should have done, neither half as well as Eden Hazard or Cristiano Ronaldo would have wanted them to.

There is rather less resting on Belgium’s game today than on Portugal’s. Hazard, Vincent Kompany and friends have already qualified for the next round. They just need one point against South Korea in Sao Paulo to confirm that they win the group and face the second-placed team from Group G in their second round match.

Portugal want to be those opponents, but they are up against it. They need a big win against Ghana in Brasilia and for a heavy defeat for the United States (or an even heavier one for Germany) in their game in Recife. They have a five-goal deficit to make up on the US. Two 3-0 margins would be enough.

It is an unlikely scenario and one that can only be delivered by one man. Ronaldo has not looked particularly comfortable at the World Cup so far, visibly infuriated in both of Portugal’s games – the 4-0 defeat to Germany and the 2-2 draw with the US – by the gap that exists between him and his team-mates.

But Ronaldo is the only reason Portugal are at the World Cup, and the only reason they are still in it. He scored all four goals in Portugal’s 4-2 play-off win against Sweden, including a legendary hat-trick in Solna. He was the only player who threatened Germany in Portugal’s dismal opening game, and it was his cross which rescued the crucial equaliser against the US.

It is not a sustainable balance, though. Watching Ronaldo so far has been difficult, with the Ballon d’Or holder held back by a knee injury and clearly frustrated by his struggling team-mates. Even if he does pull off the heist tonight – which would be one of his greatest displays – it is hard to see Portugal getting past, in all likelihood, Belgium in the last 16.

Belgium were unconvincing in their first game against Algeria, relying on two subs to turn the game around. Next up, against Russia, they were poor again before Hazard decided, in the final 20 minutes, that he was better than this. Hazard did what Ronaldo could not, and turned the game himself. He demanded the ball, drove forward, asked questions his opponents could not answer and eventually settled the game, setting up Divock Origi for the winner.

It was compelling, but it remains to be seen whether one-man teams can go all the way. Stronger opposition would have taken advantage of Belgium’s disjointed play, as they have done with Portugal. Which is not to say that their system is too unbalanced, though, but if they win their last-16 game, they will most likely face the greatest one-man team of them all: Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

 

Ronaldo is held back  by a knee injury and clearly frustrated by his struggling team-mates

 

Ronaldo (left) trains with the Portugal squad before they attempt to lift themselves from the foot of Group G against Ghana today afp

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin