But can he deliver an encore? Or two? Or three? His next test comes Thursday when the Portuguese play the Czech Republic for a place in the semifinals.
“Our goal was to get beyond the group stage and we did it,” he said. “Anything can happen now.”
He was lambasted for missing clear chances in the first two games. But the tone was altogether different after his performance against the Netherlands.
The Real Madrid star can even start putting some parity into the rivalry with FC Barcelona rival Lionel Messi. After being dominated by Messi in Spain for about three years, Real Madrid finally won La Liga this season, even if Ronaldo still finished second to Messi in the scoring standings.
Ronaldo can take personal pride to a level of petulance, and fans have latched onto it. From Bosnia to Spain to Lviv, Ukraine, during his second Euro 2012 game against Denmark, he has been mocked with Messi chants.
All too often, Ronaldo’s game appears to be about himself, an attitude going back to his street soccer days on the remote Portuguese island of Madeira _ beating defenders for the sake of beating them, posing ostentatiously before free kicks, hogging the ball, making braggadocio displays after his goals.
With Messi half a world away, Ronaldo noted that the Argentine also often misfires for his country. Ronaldo wants a second Ballon d’Or to add to his 2008 trophy. And if he is to end Messi’s string of three straight trophies as European player of the year, he assuredly needs a great Euro 2012.
This time, he thrived on the pressure. Instead of bickering with teammates, he was the consummate captain. Instead of sulking in midfield if the ball didn’t come his way, he was culling passes, dragging defenders all over the field and beating them at will.
On top of that, he scored two superb goals and hit the post twice for good measure.
By Elaine Donnelly
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