After sealing Real Madrid’s 10th Champions League in Lisbon, can Cristiano Ronaldo guide his country to international success in Brazil?
Portugal will be heading to Brazil as outsiders, but with a player of Cristiano Ronaldo’s calibre, they cannot be written off. The 29-year-old underlined his importance to the national side by scoring a hat-trick against Sweden in a playoff, ensuring Portugal’s qualification.
Ronaldo will enter the 2014 World Cup as arguably the most in-form player in world football. The Real Madrid forward scored 17 goals in this season’s Champions League, won the FIFA Ballon d'Or and has netted eight goals in his last 10 appearances for Portugal.
Portugal are in Group G alongside Germany, Ghana and the USA. Paulo Bento’s side will expect to qualify from this group and are likely to play either Belgium or Russia in the round of 16. Portugal have the quality needed to get a result against all of the teams mentioned, except Germany, who go into the tournament as one of the favourites.
However, is it still possible for one man to lead a team to World Cup glory? Diego Maradona is credited with securing Argentina the title in 1986, but the game has changed dramatically since then.
Every team that will play Portugal will spend hours analysing Ronaldo and trying to work out defensive formations to combat his incredible power and pace. However, anything can happen within 90 minutes. Ronaldo will know this better than anyone after losing the Euro 2004 final to Greece - miracles do happen.
At 29, this could be Ronaldo’s last World Cup and he will be desperate to write himself into the history books on the international stage.