In 2012, Portugal needed a win against the Dutch to qualify from the group and fell behind quite early to a Van Der Vaart strike. Ronaldo stepped up with two quality goals as he bossed the then world cup runners-up to guide his team through. in 2014, when Portugal needed to beat Sweden to book a place in Brazil, he scored 4 times over the two legs including a memorable hat-trick in the second which eventually won him the Ballon D’Or that year. This year, in the do-or-die match against Hungary, he pulled his side from behind thrice, with two goals and an assist in the 3-3 thriller. Whenever his side need him the most, he delivers and he does so in style. Against Wales, he delivered the goods yet again. After a dull first half, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a thumping header that was reminiscent of his header against Manchester United in the Champions League in 2013. Two minutes later, he turned provider, albeit inadvertently, as his scuffed shot was diverted in by Nani. Suddenly, it was all Portugal and their captain was at the heart of everything good. His free kick soared just high of the crossbar and his calm play in the final minutes halted the Welsh team from gathering momentum as Portugal saw the game out comfortably. Bale tried his best to conjure up something but the night belonged to his Real Madrid teammate who had risen to the occasion yet again.
Ronaldo may have been below par in this tournament by his own great standards but one can never question his big match performances. He is a player who pretty much plays for himself and in the process carried his entire team past the finish line. Many argue that it is a selfish attitude, but if it wins you trophies, I see nothing wrong with it. It’s this very reason that he pushes himself till the very last minute of every fixture. With his goal against Wales, Ronaldo is now the joint top scorer at the European Championships with Platini, another record in a remarkable career. With that he has probably taken the lead in the race for the Ballon D’Or as well.
Ronaldo rose to prominence at the age of 19 when his team went to Euro finals. He missed out then but this year he has the opportunity to make up for that. He will carry the weight and expectations of his nation on his shoulders, but Ronaldo will play with only one aim – to win the match, just like he does always. That is his greatest strength and that is why he is the greatest big-match player in the modern era of football.
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