Day 7 of the 2018 World Cup brought some clarity into the group standings, and Cristiano Ronaldo seized another opportunity to shine.
It was also a day when all three matches ended 1-0 – only the third time in World Cup history with three single-goal games in the same day.
Ronaldo scored his and his team’s fourth goal of the tournament, leading Portugal past Morocco.
Spain joined their neighbours and rival atop Group B by beating Iran. The result eliminated Morocco, while Iran still have a chance to make the second round.
Uruguay’s win over Saudi Arabia eliminated both the Saudis and Egypt in Group A and guaranteed hosts Russia a spot in the second round.
Ronaldo walked out for warm-ups at sun-splashed Luzhniki Stadium with diamonds affixed to each ear lobe and a new goatee sprouting from his chin like a goat, get it? Greatest of All Time.
He sparkled, even before the opening whistle of Portugal’s World Cup match against Morocco. And then he validated his flashy look with another glittering goal.
Gems removed, Ronaldo headed in Joao Moutinho’s cross after Bernardo Silva’s short corner kick in the fourth minute to become the career international scoring leader among European players, and followed with one of his look-at-me-me-me celebratory runs. Ronaldo’s tournament-high fourth goal stood up for a 1-0 win over a tenacious Moroccan team yesterday putting the European champions in good position to advance to the World Cup’s knockout rounds.
Prolific scorer, pretty boy. Acrobat, diver. Winner, whiner.
Goatee and goals are turning this into Ronaldo’s World Cup at 33, past the age considered a footballer’s player’s prime,
“He’s like a port wine,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said through a translator. “He knows how to refine his capacity and age at his best.”
Ronaldo’s competition with Lionel Messi is the great Millennial rivalry in sports, football’s version of Ali vs Frazier (boxing), Bird vs Magic (basketball), DiMaggio vs Williams (baseball).
They’ve split the last 10 FIFA Player of the Year awards. Ronaldo has won four Champions League titles with Real Madrid in the past decade, Messi three with Barcelona.
Ronaldo covets attention. After the first of his three goals against Spain in Portugal’s opener last week, Ronaldo stroked his chin as he ran in celebration. Adidas is running an advertisement featuring Messi with a real goat.
No question Ronaldo works hard to be the best, whether it’s effort in training, nutrition to keep his body resembling Michelangelo’s “David” or ensuring proper rest.
“He does everything he needs to be better every day,” Portugal defender Cedric said.
Ronaldo’s 85th goal moved him one ahead of Ferenc Puskas into sole possession of second on the career international scoring list, trailing only Ali Daei’s 109 goals for Iran. He broke free of defender Manuel Da Costa and leant low for a header from the top of the six-yard box.
His celebration was a ballet that would have made George Balanchine proud. Ronaldo ran towards a corner flag, and pounded the number 7 on his jersey twice not the team crest. He jumped and twirled his right hand three times before landing with arms spread like a seagull’s wings, mouth open.