There’s a belief that the best penalty takers should step up first in a shoot-out and lead by example, but given last night’s witch hunt towards Cristiano Ronaldo on social media, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for arguably the greatest footballer of our generation.
Perhaps I’m alone and the rest of you are ‘Team Messi’, sniffing out opportunities to knock Ronaldo off his stride. But why can’t we all just count ourselves lucky and enjoy these two wonderful athletes who entertain the football world year after year?
Anyway, unless you’ve been asleep under a rock for the past 24 hours, you would have heard about the Confederations Cup semi-final between Portugal and Chile. Despite ending 0-0 after extra-time, it was a fascinating encounter, and one Portugal can count themselves lucky to get as far penalties.
Chile had a penalty shout in extra-time and somehow managed to hit the woodwork twice in just a matter of seconds, but that summed up their abysmal finishing throughout the game.
Then once the penalty shoot-out began the European champions did their best impression of England. Portugal’s three piss weak, waist-high penalties were saved by Claudio Bravo but Ronaldo took none of those, which caused uproar across social media.
The South American champions scored all three of theirs and earned a place in the Confederations Cup final. Tonight, we will find out who Chile’s opponents will be — either Germany or Mexico.
However, the Real Madrid star’s decision to not take one of Portugal’s first three penalties left fans outraged.
The current Ballon d’Or holder was in line to take the fifth and possibly winning penalty, therefore, was accused of individual glory hunting. In response, people were quick to point the finger at Lionel Messi, the only player in world football to rival Ronaldo for greatness because the Argentina talisman took the first penalty last year against Chile.
Messi missed. Chile won. So, what difference did it make?
The point is, no matter what number penalty you take — first or last — the pressure remains. Talk of Ronaldo avoiding responsibility could not be further from the truth as he’s carried teams throughout his successful career.
After all, Ronaldo took the first penalty in Marseille last year. Fernando Santos was asked about the order of penalty takers last night: “That was the order we chose. These three players scored their goals in the Euros. There’s no point thinking along those lines [that the order could have been changed after the first was saved].”
Santos has a point. There is a flaw in the system that stops teams being allowed to change their order of penalty takers. After the first two were missed Ronaldo would have surely taken the third if he could.
It is wrong to reflect on a 90-minute game, followed by extra-time and penalties, and solely blame one player.