Christiano Ronaldo's World Cup is over as well Portugal's. His hands were on his hips, eyes a bit watery and lips quivering. His expressions said it all: the quest of the world's best footballer ended in a whimper. At 29, Ronaldo knew well that his best chance to win a World Cup for him and his country as well just slipped away.
A 2-1 victory over trouble-torn Ghana was not enough Portugal to progress and his 80th minute left-foot strike never sufficient. Portugal needed its superstar to deliver a lot more lethal strikes to edge past the USA on goal difference into the next round from Group G. Ronaldo could score only a goal and that too came after two barren matches.Their 1-4 mauling by the Germans proved too costly in the end.
But the chips were in favour of Portugal, as Ghana were in total disarray over non-payment and infighting. Weeks of protest and match boycott threat turned so nasty that football authority eventually suspended two of its star players before the Portugal match. Yet, when the match got underway, Portugal found it hard to get goal. Had not Ghana contributed an own goal, the scoreline could have been all together different.
Quite understandably, the Portuguese dreamt big and dared to hope that the Real Madrid superstar would be able to finish the unfinished the job of their football legend Eusebio some 48 years back. Lovingly called The Black Panther, Eusebio almost alone took Portugal in the semifinals, scoring nine superb goals in the 1966 World Cup.
The team that Eusebio played with was no better than the one Ronaldo played with in Brazil. Yet, ordinary bunch of players often pull off surprise if they play as a team. Eusebio was undoubtedly a superstar then but he was a superb team guy. He starred in a dramatic 5-3 win over North Korea, with his four breath-taking goals helped Portugal come back from 3-0 down. Portugal lost 2-1 to eventual Cup-winner England. But with the tears Eusebio left the field is still vivid in the minds of football buffs.
After all these years, Ronaldo was expected to revive the Eusebio magic in Brazil. But the expectation remained an expectation only. Let the legend rest in peace, Ronaldo could not be the Ronaldo even. On this day, Portugal missed an Eusebio against Ghana.