Ronaldo finally shows his stuff

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with Ruben Micael (R) and Fabio Coentrao after victory...

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with Ruben Micael (R) and Fabio Coentrao after victory against Netherlands at their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, June 17, 2012. (REUTERS)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:26 PM ET

WARSAW - For the first time in what seems like forever, the world saw the best of Cristiano Ronaldo and it was breathtaking.

Ronaldo carried the Portugese on his back Sunday, scoring both goals to lead them to a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands and a berth in the next round of Euro 2012.

The real Ronaldo showed up. Finally.

This was the man people pay money to see. This was the man who can singlehandedly turn a game. This was a man who acted like a man and responded to a challenge. This was a man who put in a performance that will long be remembered.

It isn't always thus for the Portuguese sniper.

Ronaldo is a superstar who is either loved or hated. His skill is without flaw but it resides in a body with a flawed personality.

Whether it was with Manchester United or Real Madrid, Ronaldo is a goal-making machine at the club level. But his performances wearing the red of Portugal have been lightning rods for criticism. His failures at the national level have tarnished his reputation as a player capable of responding to pressure.

Like a clarion call, that criticism was heard loud and clear after Portugal's first two games at this tournament -- for his inability to score, to control his emotions and to be a leader.

Ronaldo doesn't hide his annoyance with teammates who make bad passes or mistakes. When things aren't going well for him, he disappears for long periods of time, acting like the spoiled child who doesn't want to play with his classmates anymore.

Earlier in this tournament, during a game against Denmark, fans piqued Ronaldo's emotions by mockingly chanting "Messi, Messi." When asked how he felt about it, Ronaldo responded with petulance. There are times when the only professional qualities he shows are his skills and pay cheque.

The debate about who is the best player in the world is ongoing. Is it Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

For one day at least, Ronaldo played like the best player in the world.

His was a performance to be measured against some of the best performances at the European championship. It was as good as anything by David Villa, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten.

It wasn't just one or two moments of brilliance. It was a succession of skilled plays, a highlight reel of amazing moves, an instructional video on how to play the game.

You can't teach what Ronaldo can do. Messi and Ronaldo have God-given talent that man can only refine.

The lessons ran from Ronaldo taking a 50-yard pass on his foot and turning at the same time, to beating a defender, to two brilliantly taken goals, to lightning quick run after lightning quick run.

He was also a ball distributor, shredding the Dutch defence with passes contrived from the mind of a soccer maestro.

When Ronaldo is given room, there is no one quick enough to stay with him, whether he has the ball or not.

But for Ronaldo it was much more than a long-overdue virtuoso performance. It came in a situation that was bloated with pressure, with many people expecting Portugal to fold again under a Dutch onslaught. When the first Dutch goal came early in the game, that expectation only intensified.

That might well have happened if Ronaldo had been any less brilliant. For one moment in time, Ronaldo became a leader.

He responded to the Dutch goal with a tying goal of his own. He then launched a bomb from long range that almost tore the hands off Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Ronaldo capped off his brilliant evening with a signature goal he started and ended, the best goal of the tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo deserves his share of criticism for how he plays and how he acts.

But on this night, he deserves all the credit for performing like one of the best players in the world.


Videos

Photos