FIFA World Cup 2018 – Portugal vs Spain: Ronaldo’s hat trick another reminder of why he’s loved, hated

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JUNE 15, 2018

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo (7) celebrates after scoring a goal against Spain in Group B play during the FIFA World Cup 2018 at Fisht Stadium in Russia. – USA Today Sports

MOSCOW – Cristiano Ronaldo scored a sensational hat trick to snatch Portugal a dramatic point against Spain and proved he is the most balanced character of this entire World Cup. That’s right, he has a chip on both shoulders.

Ronaldo has as many detractors as admirers, is worshiped just as fervently as he is reviled, and, in his first game of the tournament, scored one goal with his left foot, another with his right and a third with a magnificent free kick to tie the match at 3-3 in Sochi.

Friday night also provided Ronaldo with something to celebrate and something to curse; he became the first player to score in eight consecutive major tournaments yet was handed a reminder that if Portugal are going to make any headway in the tournament it will be down to him, and him alone. For a reference point see: James, LeBron of Cleveland Cavaliers.

On a day that began with him reportedly agreeing to pay $21.7 million as a settlement for tax fraud charges in Spain, Ronaldo ended it by extracting a measure of revenge on the country where he has made his home and millions as a member of Real Madrid.

Spain’s performance was a story in itself, the 2010 champion overcoming the controversy that saw head coach Julen Lopetegui fired 48 hours before the tournament began. But it was a point that felt like a defeat for Spain, with Ronaldo’s final strike coming with just three minutes left.

It was, as always, the Ronaldo show, and he was right where he likes it – at the center of attention.

The 33-year-old is as polarizing as it gets. Good luck in finding someone who “quite” likes him. He is the most annoying player on the planet, according to some. He is the world’s greatest of this era, and maybe in history, and his charisma is misread as arrogance, say others.

The truth lies somewhere in between, or could even be both things at the same time. Both sides of the tale are fed constantly. When Ronaldo fell to the turf early after a collision with Real Madrid teammate Nacho, it was probably justified, and those who swoon over his ability were given fuel to marvel at the fact that often the only way to stop Ronaldo is by force.

The counter argument is that he went to ground too easily, then showed his arrogant side with an impudent smile in Nacho’s direction after easily dispatching the penalty kick.

You can’t sit on the fence when it comes to Ronaldo, he’s just not that kind of guy. You’re either going to admire the shameless swagger of a player who rips his shirt off and stands on bare-chested parade after scoring, or you’re going to hate the posing and hanker for the quiet brilliance of Lionel Messi.

There are countless websites and social media pages dedicated in his honor, and just as many hating on him.

Yet he is, at the same time, one of the world’s most popular celebrities, with 73 million Twitter followers and an army of fans who follow his every move, either with the ball at his feet or stepping into sports cars.

He is a modern-day marvel and belongs in any conversation of not just the best player of today, but alongside Pele and Diego Maradona, and current rival Messi, as one of the greatest ever.

Much like LeBron, Ronaldo becomes much more likable to many when he loses, but here he was on Friday too much of a competitor to let that happen.

Exchanging sympathy for success is a trade-off he would happily make, every time.


Courtesy/Source: USA Today – Daily Sports

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