He has won four UEFA Champions League titles, three FIFA Club World Cups and a UEFA European Championship. But Cristiano Ronaldo’s relationship with the FIFA World Cup™ has not been as serene or successful as his career as a whole, and memories of Portugal’s group-stage exit at Brazil 2014 will be as fresh to him as they are painful.
Nonetheless, A Seleção das Quinas’ talisman, captain and all-time record scorer has succeeded in making his mark in each of the three editions in which he has taken part. Here, FIFA.com looks back on his best moment from each.
Quarter-final, 1 July 2006, Gelsenkirchen
A tense last-eight tie against the then Manchester United star’s adopted country was settled by penalties, with Ronaldo taking centre stage. Portugal, depleted by the bruising ‘Battle of Nuremberg’ against the Netherlands – which had included a record four red cards and 16 yellows, and denied them the likes of Deco and Costinha – went into that shoot-out confident, having beaten England on penalties at the European Championship two years earlier. And after Ricardo had thwarted Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher from the spot, Ronaldo stepped up to send a superb winning kick into the top-right corner. Portugal’s German adventure would end in the next round though, thanks to a solitary goal from Ronaldo’s current coach, Zinedine Zidane.
"I'm full of confidence and I shoot strong.”
Ronaldo on his decisive spot kick
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Ronaldo dedicated the penalty to his father, Dinis Aveiro, who had died less than a year earlier. Wheeling away after the ball hit the net, he pointed to the sky and mouthed: “You there… this one’s for you!” “When I win something, I always think about my dad,” he has since said. “He’s always looking at me and out for me. He sends me messages in my dreams because what I am today is thanks to him and to my mother.”
Portugal 7-0 Korea DPR
Group stage, 21 June 2010, Cape Town
Incredible as it might now seem, given his scoring rate since, Ronaldo went into this match having not scored in a competitive match for Portugal in over two years. Shut out by Côte d'Ivoire in their opener, he saw six Portuguese goals come from elsewhere against Korea DPR before finally breaking through three minutes from time. Cristiano & Co duly qualified for the Round of 16, where they lost out to eventual champions Spain.
“He needed that goal, as all forward players do, for their confidence. Everyone is happy for him and, when Cristiano scores one goal, he often scores many more.”
Ricardo Carvalho, Portugal team-mate
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Although it was the most lopsided scoreline at South Africa 2010, Portugal’s 7-0 demolition of Korea DPR didn’t even make the top five of biggest World Cup wins. Hungary’s 10-1 hammering of El Salvador in 1982 still holds that particular record, and there have been two 9-0 wins (registered by Hungary against Korea Republic in 1954 and Yugoslavia against Zaire 20 years later) and three eight-goal triumphs: Sweden 8-0 Cuba in 1934, Uruguay 8-0 Bolivia in 1950 and, more recently, Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia at Korea/Japan 2002.
Portugal 2-1 Ghana
Group stage, 26 June 2014, Brasilia
The 2014 World Cup was Ronaldo’s most disappointing to date, marked out by Portugal’s group-stage exit and a debilitating knee injury that restricted his performances. But having failed to score or make a significant impact on a 4-0 defeat to Germany or the 2-2 draw with USA that all but doomed his team to elimination, the Real Madrid star finally found the target against Ghana to seal victory with ten minutes remaining. Portugal bowed out all the same and their star man will hope to fare better at Russia 2018.
"It would be a lie to say that we are a top team. We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level. There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us. I never thought we could win the tournament."
Ronaldo, speaking just two years before Portugal’s EURO 2016 triumph
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Though this was only Ronaldo’s third World Cup goal, he has attempted no fewer than 70 shots at the tournament. Since 1966, only his Brazilian namesake (75) and Italy legend Luigi Riva (71) have gone for goal more often at the global showpiece.